HomeOpinion & Analysis7 years on and only a few medical practitioners have an online...

7 years on and only a few medical practitioners have an online presence

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It is now seven years since the last amendment was signed for Zimbabwe’s medical and dental practitioners to have an online presence. Seven years on, there are a few medical and dental institutions and a few individual practitioners that have a basic website and an online presence.

Yesteryear, a lot of medical and dental practitioners professionals saw it as unethical for their profession to have an online presence because they felt it was a form of advertising.

There was a perception that an online presence was a cheap gimmick, and respectable medical and dental practitioners did not need to stoop so low in order to solicit for patients.

There was a difference between medical and dental practitioners who are in practice and supermarkets or stores, who are out to sell their goods and services.

Imagine a medical and dental practitioner’s office without a phone?

There would be no way for patients, potential patients, outside organisations, or any other important parties to communicate with your organisation, or set an appointment unless they walked in the practice.

Zimbabwe’s mobile penetration rate is at 102% and has an internet access rate of over 60%.

In 2012, medical and dental practitioners pushed for professionals to advertise online.

This led to the 2014 council policy on websites by the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council of Zimbabwe allowing its registered members to have websites.

With the growth of information and communication technology (ICT) in Zimbabwe, it is now paramount for the medical and dental practitioners to have an online presence.

If you are a practising doctor, a professional medical website could be the best thing that can happen to your practice. With more than 80% of Zimbabwe’s urban patients able to “Google” for a doctor before visiting a clinic, Zimbabwe’s professional practitioners need a professional medical website and this ensures online visibility for one’s practice.

If your web presence is managed by a professional website developing company, your website will show up high in Google and other search engines, along with your location and contact information, and patients in your locality will be able to find you online without making so much effort.

An online presence means planned appointments, ensuring that your practice will be able to manage your operating time much better than before.

Remember, the browsing habits of your prospective patients are changing rapidly.

Urban patients use their mobile phones to search online as well, and a big chunk of them use multiple devices, eg a PC or laptop at work, a mobile phone on the go, and a tablet at home, etc.

For a practitioner to have effective communication with their patients, your online presence needs to work equally well on large PC screens as well as small mobile screens. Conventional web developers’ websites are really not up to the task.

One of the most effective ways to educate patients is through online presence. It allows medical and dental practitioners to reach out beyond the four walls of their practices, so that they can teach everyone in the community about their health. By not having a web presence, they are actually abdicating their responsibility.

With the advent of technology, senior medical and dental practitioners no longer practise, but have become doyens of the medical and dental profession, and are in the best position to provide online patient education through available online facilities because they can provide information which is reliable.

If they do not participate on the said facilities, they are perceived to be selfish by allowing a lifetime of clinical and dental experience to go with them to the grave.

Zimbabwe’s patients are already online looking for your services and we want to make sure that they find you and your practice and that you are in control of what they find.

Having a web presence will soon become standard for medical and dental practitioners, just as it is for doctors to have their own stethoscopes !

Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi

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