Professional Web Site Considerations
Much Internet traffic1 is directed toward psychological and medical self-help, problems of living, chemical dependency, human relationships, and normal human development. In addition, people with chronic illness and developmental disorders and the ever-growing aging population and its caregivers are turning to online technology for access to peer groups, health care agencies, and professionals. To address these needs, Web sites have been developed by government agencies, insurance companies, hospitals, universities, foundations, professional associations, consumer organizations, individual practitioners, and laypeople.
In 2001,42% of physicians were working in practices with Web sites (Harris Interactive,2001 c). Today, nearly every large mental health organization maintains a Web site. Consumer use of hospital and health plan Web sites is burgeoning (D'Angelo, 2002). A worldwide online presence will soon become an ordinary part of the clinical toolbox for mental health practitioners as well.
The public strongly favors integrating Web sites into health care practices. The Jupiter Research Center reported in February 2001 that 63% of consumers would switch to a physician whose Web site offered “solid content, appointment scheduling, or secure communication channels” (Florey, 2001b, p. 13). More than half want to make appointment requests, 48% would ask for prescription refills, and 38% favor seeing their laboratory test results online. One third of general health care consumers with a chronic condition said they would participate in an online disease management program on their physician's Web site.
This chapter describes how professionals can develop their own Web sites. It discusses how to best integrate a Web presence with an existing mental health practice or a mental health association's mission. This chapter demonstrates how a Web site can augment a paper office, preserve professionalism, and serve the interests of clients. The chapter briefly discusses some of the legal risks associated with the creation and maintenance of a Web site and steps to take to decrease those risks. This chapter can help the reader plan and outline realistic goals, organize necessary technical and human resources, and recycle to another round of planning. Operating simultaneously with this structured method for constructing and maintaining a Web site is a more organic approach to accommodate various practical considerations. Also included is an example of a successful Web site development project.____________________