Online revolution

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Dr Jamie Workman has a passion for sharing dental knowledge with everyone—and the internet is his tool of choice. By Frank Leggett

Dr Jamie Workman is chuffed that his user-friendly internet service for patients is already receiving 1500 hits a month.
Dr Jamie Workman is chuffed that his user-friendly internet service for patients is already receiving 1500 hits a month.

The role of the internet is becoming increasingly important in dentistry. More practices are seeing the value of a well-maintained, easy-to-navigate website, and dentists are taking to blogging on a large scale. But what about an internet resource for patients? A site where they can get questions answered, find information, obtain an idea of costs involved and discuss alternatives. A site that can direct them to local dentists who are well qualified in their particular problems.

Say hello to jamiethedentist.com. The site asks you to imagine you have a friend who is a dentist; a friend who you can ask any question or discuss any problem and you know he’ll give you a straight-up honest answer. That’s the approach of this website.

“I’m really passionate about the brand we’ve started. It’s raw, it’s energetic and it’s who I am,” says Dr Jamie Workman, a UK-born dentist now working at a practice in Sydney’s beachside suburb of Maroubra. His user-friendly internet service reflects the down-to-earth nature and culture that’s so prevalent here in Australia.

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Dr Workman has created his site from scratch. While it’s not fully functional yet, the base information is there—and it’s getting noticed already. Without the slightest bit of marketing or publicity, jamiethedentist.com is receiving 1500 hits a month. There is obviously a need and a market for such a resource.

Dr Workman graduated from the University of Wales College of Medicine (now Cardiff University) in 2004. After working in both private and public practices in the UK, he moved to Australia permanently in 2006. He has taken to the Australian lifestyle with gusto, living in Coogee and working in nearby Maroubra. “I can’t ever see myself going back to live in the UK,” the dentist admits. “Sydney is my home now.”

The genesis of the website came about, in part, due to Dr Workman’s interest and work in search-engine optimisation (SEO) and, as he admits, his gift of the gab. “My patients really understood and appreciated how I explained everything and I guess I got a little bit of a reputation for it,” he says. Other patients started seeking him out for second opinions—a problem he puts down to trust issues and a breakdown in communication. Around this time, Dr Workman made the decision to dedicate the next part of his life to writing and presenting everything he knew about dentistry.

“I soon realised that I could only help one person at a time in the surgery,” he explains, “but if I was to use my SEO skills to create a friendly brand, then I could share this information with a lot more people.” Dr Workman also studied internet marketing to aid in getting his message out.

Once the idea was in place, the hard work began. In order to write the bulk of the content for the website, Dr Workmanreduced his hours in the practice to two days a week for two years. The content has clocked in at a grand total of 300,000 words so far. The opportunity costs of this action were, in his own words, “pretty huge”.

He pitched the idea to a programmer friend with a simple premise: “How about creating a brand that really focuses on being a friend of the patient rather than portraying ourselves as specialists.” With a qualified programmer enthusiastically on board, they started to build jamiethedentist.com. They meet every week to talk about future developments and how to make the site more interactive and appealing to patients. They have also just welcomed their first full-time employee to the team to help with the workload.

“It’s all about creating a brand where patients feel comfortable. We still have the jargon in there but explain it using analogies and metaphors. Everything is easy to understand and comprehend. Often I think we don’t empower our patients with the knowledge to allow them to make their own informed decisions.”

There are many different scenarios where a patient might click on to the website. It could be as simple as a dentist telling them they need a root canal. The site breaks down all the different aspects of a root canal and lists all the risks, so it acts as an informed consent for the patient. It clearly describes what it is, what happens, what can go wrong and what it costs. It also talks about the alternatives.

It’s extremely helpful when a patient is swamped with information in the surgery, which they invariably find hard to remember. The site provides a resource where people can access the relevant information in their own time, without any pressure from the dental surgery.

If a child has had a number of fillings and they keyword search for decay or caries, for example, the parent will find not only clear information about their condition but tips on how to stop future decay. “A lot of people want more information but dentists don’t get paid for giving that information; they get paid for doing the treatment,” says Dr Workman. “This was a way to refer patients to a source, knowing the information is quality, well written and was going to allow them to make an informed decision.”

The site is set up so patients can search a problem, a dentist or a treatment. It is, of course, general information and not tailored specifically to any one person.

Now that the base content and infrastructure is in place, Dr Workman would like to get a number of other dentists on board. He is looking for professionals who are passionate about education and their particular field. They would then have their own profile and following on the Jamie the Dentist site. For example, John the Oral Surgeon would help answer specific questions patients have about that subject. There would be leads to his own practice and he would provide a resource for the general questions the site receives.

“I’m looking for passionate individuals who want to give back to the community and give value to patients,” says Dr Workman. “They would have a permanent profile, their practice listed at the top of the website and effectively become a member of the board.”

In the next three to six months, the site will also have a directory of dentists rolled out. It will be a free service where dentists can import all their details. After logging in, the dentist will choose which procedures they offer from drop-down menus, along with the health funds they accept, links to their website, and other information. The whole process will be very simple and photographs will be able to be uploaded.

While jamiethedentist.com is still in its infancy, Dr Workman sees big things in the future. He has completed all the keyword research and done everything that is necessary to prepare for an internet marketing blitz. The next aspect will be online link building and getting the word out via social media. “Google is very hot on the tails of unnatural link-building so it’s essential that this is done correctly, strategically and effectively to maximise the results.

“We will be using multiple marketing channels to push interesting articles, cool stunts and great video content across Facebook, Twitter and relevant blogs. The site is already receiving 1500 hits a month and the traffic will increase exponentially over the next year,” he says.

Word of mouth will also play a very big part with the website, which Dr Workman has already experienced. “When I tell one of my patients about it, they invariably discuss it with somebody else.”

While the cost of setting up the site, in both time and money, has been huge, making a profit is not Dr Workman’s priority at the moment. “My focus is not creating a profit but making a difference,” he says. “At the same time, if it’s draining all my personal resources then I’m going to burn out. The site needs to be self-maintaining at some point.” To that end, he hopes to attract some major brands to act as sponsors and has not ruled out the possibility of the site carrying advertising.

As the son of two teachers, it is no surprise Dr Workman has teaching in his blood. On top of all the time, effort and money that has gone into creating jamiethedentist.com, he was also working with school children in their classrooms back in 2005. This gave him an idea that lead to the Smiles For Schools project. “This program educates kids about oral health, getting them excited about caring for their teeth, and preparing them for the experience at the dentist,” he explains.

Ultimately, jamiethedentist.com will be a brand that provides dental education and empowers patients to take responsibility for their own healthcare choices. “I want to remove the barrier between the dentist and the patient,” says Dr Workman. “I want to replace the phrase ‘I hate the dentist’ with ‘while the dentist’s practice isn’t my favourite place, I understand the importance of looking after my teeth and mouth’, thus demystifying the stigma and fears surrounding the dentist.”

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