Rejuvenate Your Health Business
A host of online tools can help you attract new clients and retain old ones, for free.
When it comes to advertising, health professionals are in a delicate situation. On the one hand, they are barred from advertising due to ethical reasons. On the other, like any other vertical, they need to inform the public about the details of the services they offer to attract more clients. The best way forward for medicos, it appears, is to resort to subtle advertising modes to lengthen the queues outside their clinics. In this regard, Web tools aimed at facilitating the exchange of health-related information, could come in very handy, both to get more clients and even to offer quick consultations online.
Blogs, podcasts, wikis and tagging tools are a few online options that doctors and researchers can put to good use. Instead of directly soliciting business, these tools help disseminate information about the treatment you offer and promote health education. In the bargain, potential clients are attracted to your expertise and services.
Blogs and podcasts
Blogs (a word coined from ‘Web’ and ‘log’), for instance, are websites on which one or more users post their opinions and information about a particular subject on a regular basis, for no charge. Many blogs invite readers to write in with their queries, which are promptly answered. These exchanges encourage other readers to participate too. In this manner, information exchanges grow, allowing blogs to become sources of topical, practical information. As an example, the blog, http://blog.indianwomenshealth.com/ brings together a panel of experts to share health information of interest to Indian women. Its tagline, “One stop destination for your health queries” sums up its purpose well. It claims to be a source of articles on various aspects of a woman’s life including women’s health. Users are likely to be attracted by the fact that the information has been validated by the panel of medical experts. The blog invites users to post queries that it claims will be promptly replied by the subject experts.
Vinoth Kumar, founder, www.doctorsandmedicines.com, an online health consultation portal, maintains a blog to promote the site and has plans to use podcasts in the future. Kumar says, “Rather than creating direct value, blogs help in spreading the message at a fraction of the (advertising) cost. Also, once published, content exists on the Web for a lifetime, which is not the case with other media.”
Moving to podcasts, these are multimedia digital files uploaded to the Web for users to download to a portable media player, computer,etc. Since podcasts combine both audio and video content, they are a great way to disseminate information to a wide audience. Not only health professionals establishing new practices but even reputed agencies like the World Health Organisation and Discovery’s health channel use podcasts to share important information (see http://www.who.int/mediacentre/multimedia/podcasts/en/ and http://health.discovery.com/podcasts/podcast.html).
Wiki for health
Put simply, a wiki (Hawaiian for ‘fast’) is a website developed collaboratively by many users. A simple interface makes it easy for collaborators to add and edit content to Web pages. Such simplified text editors are based on the concept of ‘What You See Is What You Get’ (WYSIWYG), which ensures that users need not be professionally qualified to use the pages.
Some wikis control user access rights for different functions. For instance, only a certain class of users may be permitted to add new topics or remove content. Creating such access levels can help organise content, especially health-related information, which should be vetted before being posted for public consumption.
Ward Cunningham, the developer of the first wiki software, WikiWikiWeb, described his invention as “…the simplest online database that could possibly work.” ‘Work’, essentially implies the ability of the medium to successfully bring together people on one collaborative platform.
In the context of offering medical services, wikis help create and engage online communities with health subjects of their interest. Check out WikiHealth at www.wikihealth.com—it is described as a “…collaborative site aimed at offering the most comprehensive, current and insightful information to help anyone and everyone achieve optimal health.” Its tagline, “Our belief is that your knowledge matters—and you can help others by sharing what you know,” encourages readers to share their views.
Tag a client
The concept of tagging was popularised by Web 2.0, the second wave of the Web. Tagging means assigning tags or keywords describing content to Web pages, to make it easier for other users interested in the subject to find the information. Public tagging, a means for users to save Web pages deemed to be relevant to a certain subject, thus builds on the premise that consumers of information are the best judge of its usefulness. Shared tags help save others the time it takes to narrow down searches on a particular subject, while distilling essential information from many Web pages.
As far as the health sector is concerned, tagging allows health professionals to show their expertise by collating information related to their field of specialisation. Social bookmarking sites such as Digg and Del.icio.us
that allow users to submit links to online content and to associate tags with their submissions, come in handy for this purpose. Del.icio.us (pronounced ‘delicious’) is a community bookmarking website designed to help users save and share Web pages. Likewise, Digg permits users to find and share Web content by submitting links. Other users can then vote and comment on the usefulness of these links. For instance, view the following health-related links on Digg, http://digg.com/search?q=health
Tagging can also mean creating keywords for content posted on your own site, whether it is a blog or otherwise. The better you tag the information you put out on the Web, the greater are the chances of your attracting more clients. For instance, a health practitioner could use the photo-sharing site Flickr to tag, post and share photos describing the treatment offered (remember to take your patients’ consent for photographs you intend to share online). Appropriate tags would allow other Flickr users and Web browsers to look up these photographs and feel inspired to use your services. Tagging is equally useful if you operate an online health store. Then, you would typically assign products to categories, and associate each with a set of keywords to help users look them up. Using the same keywords for similar products can set up cross referenced lists to push sales. By clicking on a product that interests them, customers can see a list of related products. If you use these inexpensive methods that are at your disposal to spread the word about your services, chances are, the queues outside your clinic will get longer. Try it, and see the difference!
Written by Charu Bahri Saturday, 3 September 2011 04:11