Practice website top tips

  • Patient engagement

Some simple steps to consider to get the most out of your practice’s online presence and reduce phone and in-person queries.

Place the top user actions front and centre

Your home page and/or top menu items should reflect the most common reasons patients visit a practice website, such as appointment booking/alteration/cancellation, registration, opening times, repeat prescriptions etc. Putting these in a prominent place so the information can be found quickly and easily will mean better patient satisfaction than if they have to spend time digging though the website.

If you have information you want to promote to users avoid the temptation to use pop-ups or take over a substantial amount of your home page. If how you are pushing a piece of information irritates people they will engage with it less, even if it is very prominent. Targeted texts with a relevant link sent to the particular patient cohort(s) affected may be a better option, for example.

Clear language and layout

When laying out pages it helps to add headings, think about the overall purpose of a page and order information accordingly: what does a patient need to know first and is there a particular action they need to take?

This information should likely be at the top, with details of what else they need to know below it. It is best practice to add the newest information to the top of a page, unless it only makes sense in the context of having read other information. It may also help to add a note of what information has changed on a page and when it changed, so patients who have seen the page before realise there is something new for them to pay attention to.

If a page has had text added to it several times has it will very likely have reached the point where it should be split up into two or more pages. Think about the which pieces of information logically go together and move them to a new page accordingly, rather than just lifting the second half of the page. Link to the new page(s) you have created from the original one so patients can find the information that has moved.

Make sure you use simple language, particularly when using medical terminology, and if you need to use a medical term clearly spell out what it means afterwards. This also applies to NHS structures, for example saying ‘hospitals’ rather than ‘trusts’.

Stay up to date

It may help to add calendar reminders with links to the relevant page in order to stay on top of what out-of-date information needs to come off the website. If one part of your website is out-of-date then it causes patients to question the accuracy of other pages and makes them more likely to contact the practice to verify the information they have read. The more patients trust the information online the less time will be taken answering calls. Examples of out-of-date information may include dates for flu clinics that have since passed, Christmas opening hours, etc.

Write text into pages

It can be tempting to upload PDFs and images of posters, flyers etc. But for patients reliant on a screen reader a jpg, or png image of words will not show up. PDFs may not display properly on mobile devices and some devices do not have PDF reader. If you do not have time to reproduce all the text of an image on a webpage at least write up the key points.

Use external sources where helpful

Not all information on a practice website needs to be produced by the practice itself, particularly time intensive content such as videos and animations. Many organisations, including Londonwide LMCs, provide videos on YouTube and other platforms which provide helpful explainers to patients and can be embedded on a practice website.

Think about the information and wording you are asked to pass on

Where a commissioner or other body asks you to add information to your website on their behalf read it thoroughly and make sure what it is telling your patients is relevant and accurate. Even if wording is signed-off somewhere else patients will ultimately hold the practice responsible for instructions and information on your website. For example, if you are being asked to promote a service which has been launched nationally but currently has only very limited local capacity, consider whether the information should be amended to reflect that. To maintain relationships it may help to discuss the information you are being asked to pass on with the organisation who have provided it.

Note: if you are ever asked to promote a service or activity which is a contractual or regulatory requirement and you do not feel the practice can currently deliver it then you should contact our GP Support team before communicating anything to patients or commissioners.

Have multiple admin accounts

Ensure that more than one person in the practice has access to the website and is trained in editing it. This is particularly important for managing unexpected absences or during popular holiday periods when more staff may be taking annual leave.

Google Maps and Facebook business entries

Google Maps and Facebook will automatically create pages for local businesses, including GP practices. If your practice has not already claimed ownership of these pages it is a good idea to do so and keep opening hours etc up to date. The Google Maps process for claiming a business is here and a description of Facebook’s process is here. Managing these pages adds additional administrative burden to a practice, but in general it is better to try to keep them up to date and respond to reviews, particularly negative ones. Both have the option to remove the page that has been generated for a business, but this process is complicated and normally reliant on the business having closed down.