several pineapples at a party

Why your GP practice website needs personality (and how to show it)

kara my story page

This week we invited friend and award winning Primary Care Comms Expert Kara Skehan, from Primary Care Comms Clinic back to sprinkle even more insight over patient communications.

If you’re a practice manager reading this, you’ll know already that your website isn’t just an important communication tool; it’s THE most powerful one you have. A quick glance at your website stats and you’ll see it beats all your other ways of communicating with patients, hands down. 

The foundation of any website is, of course, accessibility and best practice. The NHS published their clearest guidance yet on creating a highly usable and accessible GP website for patients a few short weeks ago. But after ticking everything on that list, you may well find that your GP website looks, well, a bit samey and like many (many) other surgery websites.

Cherish forever what makes you unique, ‘cuz you’re really a yawn if it goes.

The Divine Miss M, Bette Midler

It was the fabulous Bette Midler that said: “Cherish forever what makes you unique, ‘cuz you’re really a yawn if it goes.” We’ve not worked with one practice team yet that identically mirrors another in culture and attitude. 

Whether you’re a small rural surgery in North Yorkshire or a fast-paced inner city practice in Birmingham, you all want to show compassion and empower your patients to self care. But you’ve all got your own way of doing things, caring for patients and working together as a team. That should be celebrated.

Three ridiculously easy ways to show your personality through your website

While a website’s design components and features can be similar, there are plenty of ways you can set your practice apart, giving patients confidence that you’re on their side. Manage that and everyone’s life becomes a little easier.

Here are just three simple website fixes that’ll help your practice personality start to shine through:

1. Re-think your practice news page 

Like the random drawer you have at home where you chuck batteries and keys for the back door, the news section on GP practice websites is where we often ‘dump’ content that doesn’t live elsewhere. So make it work more for you. Some easy-win content ideas:

  • Fact-check the news If the Daily Fail have been giving general practice the boot again, give the facts from what it’s like behind closed doors. Five receptionists answering over 1,000 calls a week; you do the maths, Susan! We want more help as well. Work with us and let’s tell the local MP together.
  • Explain a grumble If access or “why is the receptionist asking what’s wrong with me” are the number one grumbles amongst patients right now, have one of your GPs explain the process and show patients what happens behind the scenes. Photos, videos; your smartphone is your friend on this occasion. 

Whatever news is hot-off-the-press, be sure to write in a way that reflects your own voice. Less cold and clinical. More counselling a friend. Patients want the truth. 

Bonus tip – Make more of your news page by using them for your patient newsletter

You know social media only reaches small numbers in certain demographics. You may not know that emails reach across patient age groups:

  • 25% of 18 to 24-year-olds check their email first thing in the morning 
  • Millennials spend 6.4 hours a day checking email
  • 56% of your over 75s are already sending and receiving emails.

So it makes sense to prompt patients to sign up to news alerts and better still, house your newsletter there.

Running your website on Practice365? Keeping your patients up-to-date is super straightforward, as your website can automatically send your news posts and newsletters out to patients who have signed up to receive your alerts. 

Don’t have a sign-up option on your home page? Just ask us to switch the feature on and watch your newsletter mailing list grow without even trying.

You can even import existing email addresses if you’ve checked your patients are happy to receive them (We are there if you need help with the import process). 

2. Meet the team (the real team, that is)

Behind those pixels is your talent; the GP who specialises in menopause, the practice nurse that works with armed forces veterans, the receptionist who only wants to help (though some patients still need to be convinced). 

With them in mind, names are not nearly enough when it comes to your team page. Help your patients get to know your team before they’ve even stepped through your doors with photos. There’s something reassuring about seeing a line-up of smiling faces, rather than logos and buildings and faces are far harder to be angry at in comparison to inanimate objects. 

Photos have also become increasingly important as GP practices streamline patient care with telephone consultations. It’s a common experience for some patients never to meet their clinician face-to-face, and your team page may be the only opportunity to show them who they’re speaking to.

Finally, beyond photos, you should also consider adding interests, further humanising your staff and being seen as people with real lives (and feelings too!). As for your clinical team, the addition of specialties can bring instant patient reassurance that they’ll be treated by the right people.

A special shout out to THE hardest working receptionist in the NHS

This woman has earned her stripes. You’ll find her down south and up north (must be agency). Her career has spanned at least a decade, yet she hasn’t aged a day (a feat in itself, given the stress of her role). 

The hardest working receptionist in the land.
The hardest working receptionist in the land.

If you recognise her, it’s not because she picked up an award for her work (she didn’t). It’ll be because she (or someone who looks eerily similar) can be found on GP practice websites throughout the land. Yes, it’s a stock photo and no, she’s never stepped foot behind a GP reception desk.

After 20 years of the internet, website visitors have developed an uncanny ability to pick up on inauthentic photos. And while trust is important for any website, whether dog sitting service or retail, it’s especially important for medical institutions. So please, take time to really explore the image library of your website supplier when they offer or better still, take your own photos.

3. Talk to them, not AT them 

And finally, as we said from the start, not all practices are the same and neither are your patients. Don’t bundle them together. Make it feel personal by switching mentions of “patients” to “you”/”your family”/”your child” in your copy. 

It’s a simple switch that instantly removes the “us/them” divide, setting you off on good footing for building rapport.

kara my story page

These pointers are easy starters for ten on a personality-splashed practice website.

If you can’t find the time (you’ve plenty on your plate which might be spinning precariously alongside 376 others) the Primary Care Comms Clinic team are always here to translate your personality to the world for you. 

If you want to discuss how to use your GP website to its full potential, then please drop us a line.

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