The next generation of interactive Web sites

By offering visitors the option of watching a video about topics they are interested in (instead of just text to read), your Web site will stand out in the crowd.

Web site media centers allow physicians to film customized, patient-targeted videos and upload them to their practice Web sites. Media center presentations generally include customized footage of physicians, staff, and past clients, and are usually filmed on location at the office. Most media center presentations begin with a short introduction to the practice. Then, the user is prompted to provide additional information in order to continue watching the videos. (Each practice is able to decide what type of information to request.) The media center's software guides Web site visitors through each video clip and documents which one(s) he or she enjoyed watching most.

In the process, data showing what type of information the visitor is looking for are collected and a statistical analysis is then sent to the practice.

Let's review some of the other interactive Web site products on the market today:

Auto-responder-This software sends information requested through a form on the practice's Web site to patients and potential patients. The information is stored in a library and is sent based on boxes checked or choices made from a pull-down menu on the form users have submitted.

Information that can be sent by auto-response includes:

Many e-mail programs include an auto-response feature. The cost associated with this tool varies depending on format as well as the material being sent. Generally, for establishing a newsletter look with responses set in a template, the fee can range from $500 to $1,500.

Push-to-talk-This interactive feature lets the patient or potential patient phone the practice directly from the practice Web site. The patient simply enters his or her phone number and clicks a button to connect. The push-to-talk software then connects the phone at the practice to the number entered by the person requesting the connection.

The practice receives statistics showing how many site visitors use the feature, the phone numbers of those visitors, the duration of each call, and which party ends the call. These data allow the practice to track Internet leads more easily.

Several Web development companies offer the push-to-talk feature. The cost can be billed monthly, per minute of service used, or as a one-time setup fee with annual renewal.

Costs may increase by $500 to $1,500 if the push-to-talk window is customized to match the company Web site, logo, and artwork.

Virtual tours-When choosing a physician, many patients like to see the practice facility. The virtual tour lets visitors see different areas of the practice via video or images linked on the Web site. Some virtual tours allow visitors to navigate on their own while others are pre-designed. Virtual tours help set realistic expectations of what the office experience will be like.

Fees associated with the addition of virtual tours vary greatly. Many Web development companies offer these products and services. The price they charge is usually based on how much production time is required, the running time of the videos themselves, and if customization occurs outside of their predetermined format.

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