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Browse the want ads of many professional journals and you can find any number of self-appointed Internet gurus offering their services. For fees ranging between $4,000 and $20,000, they promise to design a customized World Wide Web site for your practice.
If you’ve got the money to burn and want to impress your friends, go ahead and hire a high-priced Web consultant. For that kind of money you can buy a beautiful Web site and someone else will look after all the details for you.
If you can’t afford that, don’t let sticker shock keep you from marketing your practice on the Web, says Keith Borglum, president of Professional Management and Marketing, a consulting firm based in Santa Rosa, CA. "You don’t have to put up that kind money to get a site," he says.
"I recommend that my clients go to their local computer user groups. Usually there is somebody that offers an economical computer software setup to get your browsers loaded," he says. They will also provide all the software required to get started.
In Northern California, the typical charge is about $200, says Borglum.
Borglum recommends that someone at the practice prepare all the core information to be presented at the site. "You can pretty easily write out a document in any word processing software that outlines how you want the things to be organized and to show up at the site," he says.
If a consultant does this step for you, you will pay through the nose and the content won’t be as good as if you had done it yourself, Borglum says. Consult a good book for help on organizing your Web site. [Editor’s note: Borglum recommends Cool Web Pages published by IDG Books Worldwide in Foster City, CA. Telephone: (800) 550-2747.]
Beyond your home page, count on having enough information for three to 10 sub-pages. This content should include instructions on how to contact the practice, physician CVs ,and several articles of interest to potential patients.
If an Internet consultant only has to lay out the data and incorporate artwork, his fee should be about $500, Borglum estimates.
When the San Francisco Spine Center put together its Web site two years ago, it spent no more than $2,000, says clinic program supervisor Eric Swift.
In addition to set-up costs, the clinic pays about $40 per month to run the site. That amount is split evenly between the Internet service provider’s monthly fee and the server for the site, says Swift.
"It’s really not too expensive. The biggest cost is our labor downloading inquiries from the server and responding to them," he says.