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Back from the AAO

Amy and I got back from Orlando, last week.  We attended the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting, the world’s largest gathering of ophthalmologists and those associated with our “industry.”  It’s our huge trade show.  For us, we got some national exposure for our new company.

Telling a Story

You may remember that we received a nice endorsement from the AAO earlier in the year.  The endorsement came in the form of acceptance of our lectures (4) and and invitation to address young doctors about marketing.

In short, we told everyone about what we are doing here at RetinaEyeDoctor.com.

We told the story of how we started, how it has benefited my practice (patients arrive internationally and nationally), how we use the site to educate patients (real and virtual) and it has become a valuable tool in developing relationships with my patients and my “tribe” (those that follow this site…um, that means you!).

Teaching More than SEO and Social Media

While the courses topics ranged from choosing a URL to implementing social media via a blog, we were advocating some very simple points;

1.  If You Have No Website, You Don’t Exist: Patients have become empowered by the Internet.  Long gone are the days where a patient will blindly take the “referral” of one physician from another.  Today, patients want to select their doctors based on their own criteria.  The easiest way to search is to use Google, but you (my readers) know this.  If a doctor has been recommended, but a website can not be found (or is old and stale), patients will never call to make an appointment.

2.  Doctors need Transparency: There are two types of transparency that physicians must display, personal and business.  Personal transparency means that a doctor must display some attributes of being human.  This personal transparency means that doctors should share a bit about their personal side to which patients (as other humans) can relate.  Patients want to relate to their doctors.

As an example, a doctor listing his/her hobbies is much more engaging than listing the elite academic achievements to which noone else can relate (even other doctors).

Every other business in every other industry, except medicine, opens itself to public criticism and evaluation.  Movies, books, restaurants all go under review of the public.  Doctors must get used to the notion of operating this type of transparent business.

3.  Serving the Public Good. The only way a medical practice can use a website as an effective marketing tool is to publish credible health information.  While over 80% of the public turns to the Internet first for health related questions, there is a paucity of reliable information (you know this, too!).

If every doctor were to publish/write on their own sites, they would get the rankings they want …and the public would get the answers they need.  Best of all, this means that the quality of health information available to the public improves.

What Does This Mean? We got validated.  We met so many doctors trying to learn how to engage the Internet, to make their websites useful and to learn how to build relationships.  We were appreciated and really became to feel that we are leading a movement…..maybe we are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How This Blog Has Developed…into a Business!

Medical Marketing Enterprises, Medical Website Optimization, SEO and Social Media

 

Blogs, the simplest form of social media, can improve health education and at the same time aid interested doctors in marketing their medical practice.  It’s a win-win.

I started about 2.5 years ago with retinaeyedoctor.com.  It started as a bit of challenge to myself, but resulted after my attorney wife, Amy, introduced me to the techniques of Internet Marketing.

Google Made “Search” Legit

I realized that thanks to Google, getting pages to appear at the top of search list was now legitimate.  No more games or gimmicks.  No more paying your way to the top.

Search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo, reward websites with fresh and relevant content with high rankings!  While their algorithms of how they rank pages are secret, the major search engines now rank pages based on the content, that is, the quality and relevance of the articles contained on that page.

This, so-called “content marketing” allows web pages with really good information with high rankings…in this case, medical websites that publish accurate and relevant health information will enjoy top rankings.

“Above the Fold”

Top rankings for a webpage are analogous to the most important news story appearing “above the fold” in newspaper lingo.

Amy and I have founded Medical Marketing Enterprises, LLC,  a medical website optimization company, .  Our goals are to;

  • teach medical practices how to publish great websites that get ranked by Google
  • improve the quality and credibility of health info on the Internet
  • establish a legitimate business

In a nutshell, we’ll teach a doctor to do what I’ve done for my own practice.  By publishing great medical content…websites get ranked well.

The public gets great health information and the doctor gets marketing!

I think our timing is great.  Doctors are just realizing that they must engage the Internet, as over 80% of the public turns to the Internet for health related questions.

Doctors don’t understand the importance of social media and fail to realize that engaging in social media can be as simple as starting a blog (like this one).  Starting Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts can be helpful, but not necessary.

Our biggest endorsement comes this fall.  The American Academy of Ophthalmology is in Orlando and we’ll be teaching several courses on just how to get started.

Wish us luck!  Imagine…if more doctors would create websites like this one, the quality and credibility of health information available on the Internet would be second to none!

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AAO Chicago 2010: Social Media and Medicine

I just returned from the American Academy of Ophthalmology held in Chicago.  It is the largest ophthalmology meeting in the world.  It is a great way for me to get my CME (continuing medical education) credits and have fun with friends and family.

The AAO is the largest in the world.  This year the meeting was combined with MEACO (Middle East Africa Council of Ophthalmology).   There were a lot of people in town.  Conservatively, I’d guess 30-35,000 were in Chicago for the 4 day event.

Continuing Medical Education (CME)

Every physician is required to attend educational activities during the year to maintain state licensure.  Attending classes and lectures are the most common ways to fulfill these requirements.

I went to learn how ophthalmologists are using their web pages, social media and the Internet to educate their patients and grow their practice.

“Build It and They Will Come”

Most doctors still feel that by simply building website, patients will flock through their doors.  So many of my friends (doctors) are planning to “refurbish” their websites with the expectations of improved rankings and visibility.  They have no understanding of how to really improve their rankings.

Many practices have a web site, but use the site as a reference page.  The site contains office hours, locations, insurance in formation, etc.  The patients that use these sites are already known to the practice.

The only way for a medical practice to improve their exposure is to construct a website (or blog like this one) and provide relevant content that is refreshed at a regular rate.  This method, called Search Engine Optimization (SEO), is the only method that can work for a medical practice.

As a reward for providing fresh new content, Google (Yahoo and Bing, too) will elevate these sites in the rankings.  It has nothing to do with fancy graphics and a new design.

What Does This Mean? Doctors are finally embracing the Internet.  They don’t know how to use it, but at least they have their heads out of the sand are pointed in the right direction.  By embracing the Internet, they are admitting that most patients now use the Internet.  It will take several more years for medical docs to “get it,” but at least it’s a start.

As an aside, I was overwhelmed, and encouraged, by how much I’ve learned over the past 20 months.  The last time I was in Chicago was 20 months ago.  Amy, my wife, an attorney and Internet guru, brought us to a premier Internet marketing seminar.

She is why I started this blog.  There is a lot of “white space” with medicine and the Internet…alot.

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Web Site is One Year Old!

RetinaEyeDoctor.com was started one year ago!  I remain as energized as ever about social media, the Internet and patient education.  Creating one of the few objective souces of health information has been a lot  of work…but also very rewarding and fun.

Traffic

“Traffic” on the web is a good thing.  Traffic refers to the number of people coming to a web site.  The traffic here now approaches 2000 people per month!

Most of the traffic now comes from search engines such as Google (Bing and Yahoo being the two other major search engines).  65-70% of the visitors now come as a result of a “search.”

Twitter and Facebook

Initially, I’d write an article then promote the article, and web site, via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  These are social media platforms.  Basically, the traffic would increase when I wrote a new article, and decrease if nothing new were added.

I used this method for a solid 9 months.  In the first year, I wrote over 200 articles for the web site.  That’s almost 4 articles per week!

Great Content and Google

My 200 articles is a lot of content for any site.  We now have a rock-solid base.  Google really likes web pages with solid, relevant content that is updated regularly.  Google rewards pages like this with higher rankings, or “visibility.”

As a result, this web page now starts popping up on Google searches.  We are rising closer to the top.  People see us on the first one or two pages, click and come to read.  In other words, people are now finding the site on their own.

You may have noticed that I am not writing as frequently.  This is the reason.

What Does This Mean?  This has been a fun and rewarding year.  I have spent 100’s hours learning about how to effectively use the Internet.  I really enjoy it.  I also feel my writing has improved.

On a local scale, patients are now self-referring after finding us on the Internet.  It really is a new age!  I have had patients from as far as Nigeria come and visit.

On a larger scale, I remain firm in my belief that more and more patients will be looking for relevant, credible health information over the Internet.  More docs will, and should, take our lead.  Slowly the quality of health information on the Internet will improve.

Thank you for commenting, reading, and sharing this blog with your docs and friends.  Thank you for your support.

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Attn Email Subscribers: New Email Alerts

To My Subscribers,

In the past few days I have been busy changing the service that notifies you of new articles on the web site.

The email alert is no longer coming from Feedburner.com (Google) and should be coming from aWeber (of no consequence to you).

Hence,

  • the change in the new look of the message.
  • the “thank you” you just received although you signed up sometime over the past year.
  • you may have received two different alerts about the same article

Thanks for your patience,

Still learning.

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Blogs are Web Pages That "Morph"

This site is a medical blog.  I call it a web site, but there are a few subtle differences germane only to “webmasters.”  For you, the reader, it is just a web site.  Either way, your are looking for credible sources of health information.

WEB + LOG = WEBLOG = BLOG

The term “blog” is actually a combination of the two words web and log.  It has all the functionality of a traditional, static, web page, but also has some Web 2.0 friendly attributes.  Combining the content, purpose and format, we are a Medical Blog.

What is a BLOG?

Initially, blogs became very popular due to the ability to leave “comments.”  Leaving comments allowed readers to become more proactive contributors to that particular web page and to the Internet.

Letting yourself be heard was a huge success, but the success has dwindled due to spammers.  Spammers quickly learned that they could leave “spam” as comments.

Blogs are Easy to Create

I have been hacking away at creating web pages since 1994.  I used Microsoft’s FrontPage for years.  It was fun to create your own web page, but it took lots of time.  Everything needed to be “programmed” or designed.

Blog software is much easier to use.  It can be used “right out of the box.”  It is rather generic in appearance, but you can add color, graphics and design later.

My blog, or web site, is always changing.  I spend most of my time writing and less time designing.  Every once in a while, I’ll make a design change, but the content, or writing, is most important.

Blogs Work From Any Computer

Another advantage of blog software is that I can add or make changes to my site from any Internet connected computer.  I can be at work, ice rink (when the WiFi works) or at home to make changes.  This versatility is a tremendous advantage to me.  The software and the blog data resides on a remote server in cyberspace (actually mine is with “www.GoDaddy.com ” in Scottsdale, AZ).

Traditional web page software resides on a specific computer.  You must have, and pay, for a copy of the web page software on each computer that you use.  The software stays on my laptop, for example, thus forcing me to use the same computer every time I want to work on a web page.  This is highly inconvenient.

Content is King

The biggest reason blogs are popular is the ease in which you (ok, I) can add articles, or posts, to the page.  I can write an article and once finished, it takes about 1 minute to upload to the Internet (or Scottsdale).

Content is crucial to the Internet.  The popularity of a particular web page is now based, almost exclusively, on the content and relevance of your articles.  Web sites that are updated frequently with relevant content rank higher in “searches” than those that don’t.  Traditional web pages take more time to add content.  It can be done, but it isn’t so seamless and easy.

Searches?  An organic “search” is what you do to “Google” something.  One day, I hope my web page comes up very high when you “Google” “macular degeneration” or “diabetic retinopathy.”

The Price is Right

Best of all, you can start a blog…for free.  WordPress.com and Google Blogs are two sites that allow you to set up a blog for free.  There are some limitations, of course.

If you don’t like free, I use WordPress.org installed through GoDaddy.  I have also recently purchased a new template called Thesis.  Overall, hosting with GoDaddy using WordPress.org (actually also free) along with cost of the template costs me about $7 per month.  Really

What Does This Mean? For all the reasons above; cost, ease of use, versatility, and SEO friendliness, BLOGS  are becoming more and more popular.  You can design any blog to look like any traditional web page.  These days, web page and blog are basically synonymous and I try to use the terms interchangeably, but not to confuse you.

Have a great weekend.

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My 100th Post: What I Have Learned, Part II

This is part two of my celebration of my 100th post to this web.

Read Part I.

6.  Google Ranks Pages, Not Web Sites – this was at first hard for me to comprehend, but it now makes sense.  What this means to you, is that you should NOT worry about the whole site, that is, your entire site does NOT have to be perfect!  If you work hard (at the SEO, etc.), you may be fortunate enough to have a few “high-ranking” pages.  This higher ranking will help your other pages as well (especially newer posts).

6a.  A Web Site Should Always Be a Work in Progress – it should never really be completed.  Perhaps the graphics and other artwork are masterfully presented, but at the very least there should always be room for more, or better, content.  Your writing style will change and so will your message.

7.  Use Multimedia – there are so many ways to easily present yourself;  video (e.g. YouTube), podcasts (audio digests, if you will), slide presentations (e.g. Slideshare) and pictures (e.g. Flickr).  All of these media, can be easily used to “find” your web.

Personally, I am hoping to have a short video introduction on the home page of the blog and web site.  There are lots of easy “plug-ins,” or programs, that will easily integrate video into the web.  I have used Slideshare for the 3 presentations that you see in the right column.  They themselves have attracted attention within Slideshare and are as powerful as my writing for another blog (see #8).

8.  Writing for Other Sites – occasionally you may want to consider writing fresh, valuable content to another blog.  You will want to leave your own URL as part of your signature so that you gain a “pingback” from the search engines (you are establishing a connection between another’s page and your own).  This will help your rankings and anything associated with your name.

For instance, I write occasionally for Eye Doc News.  It is a web site on eye disease.  Thus, it is similar to this site.  Each time I write an article, I sign my name along with the URL of this web site (URL  = www.RetinaEyeDoctor.com).  Not only will readers consider checking out this page, but the search engines give me brownie points for contributing.

9.  Social Media Can Revolutionize Medical Care.  The longer I continue to post on this website, the more I realize the value of social media.  Social media empowers the user to reach out and tell others.  While I plan on a few more articles regarding social media in the next few weeks, suffice to say, social media can help others, quickly and in real time, find credible resources on the internet.

10. Doctors Should Not be Afraid of the Internet – with regard to health care, there is a dearth of credible information.  In my opinion, instead of shunning “all things internet,” doctors should embrace the internet.  After all, our patients do.

One could argue (and I do) that doctors have a social responsibility to provide relevant, credible information for the public.  There are possible public health ramifications by creating useful information on the internet.  On a more personal level, a knowledgeable patient becomes an appreciative patient.  It can build your practice.

11.  Have Fun. I have never had this much fun or been as excited about a project before.  I hope you can find the same excitement.

More in another “50.”

“Randy”

Randall V. Wong, M.D.
www.TotalRetina.com
Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist

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The 100th Post to RetinaEyeDoctor.com: What I have Learned, Part I

This week celebrates my 100th post to the site.  I started in April, 2009, hit the 50th post in August and have been continuing to develop the site.  In August, to celebrate my 50th post, I wrote about what I had learned.  I would like to continue that theme this week.

1.  Stay Focused with Your Writing/Blogging. This is probably the hardest part about developing a weBlog.  This is also the most important element.  There are several reasons;  in order to maintain, or develop, a faithful readership, you need to have new, relevant material.  Just like a web site that becomes stale, no one will return if you don’t have any new content or comment.

On the other hand, do not write for the sake of writing.  Writing about something for the sake of creating a new “post” is easily transparent.  It will not reflect your passion.

2.  Social Media Works. Social media, whatever it means, works.  Let it work for you.  Social media will help you get the word out, faster than email, faster than a press release and faster than your web page. Learn how Twitter, Facebook, etc. function and how it can work for your web/message.

I am on Twitter.  It takes a while to understand Twitter, but it is extremely powerful.  I am just learning.  I have made several connections via Twitter.

I just started a fan-page on Facebook (Randall Wong, M.D.)?  Why?  My regular page was really for friends, my kids and family.  If you establish a fan-page, you do not have to “friend” anyone for comments to be posted on your page.  I personally don’t see anything wrong with a doctor “friending” a patient, but it is a sticky area right now.

3.  The Learning Curve is Very, Very Steep………..and Broad. You are one person.  The more you learn, the more there is to do.  From running analytics to changing headers, not too mention maintaining your site with fresh content.  I, specifically, feel that content is the core of your site.  I am not an affiliate marketer, I intend to stay and contribute.  If you find yourself short of time, put the time into your writing.

There are always going to be distractions; the header that doesn’t fit, the graphic with the wrong color, the positioning of the Google ads, etc.  Remember, this is a work in progress, it always will be.  The learning curve is initially very, very steep.  I am still on the “up” slope.

For months I kept the generic header pics.  I survived this and don’t think my readers much cared.

4.  The Glass if Half Full. As you pay attention to your statistics/analytics, take heart in the positives.  For instance, pay attention to the number of unique visits versus return visits, the time spent at your page/site.  Be aware, that too much information for a fledgling web site is not necessarily meaningful.  There are 3 stats that are meaningful;  new and unique visitors to your site, returning visitors and the time spent at the site.  Remember, I am speaking about a blog (versus a site that is designed for sales).

New and unique visitors indicate that people are able to find you via search engines, SEO (search engine optimization), social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).  Whether or not they stay and/or return is a matter of your content.

Returning visitors indicate that your content is intriguing, interesting and fresh.

Time spent at the site is a good indication of your readers’ interest in your blog.

5.  Backlinks and SEO (search engine optimization) go hand-in-hand.  Search engines, like Google/Bing/Yahoo, are focusing more and more on relevance.  Relevance for your searches.  The ranking of your web depends upon the relevance of your content and how it matches with the keywords used for the “search.”

You must first work on the content of your blog.  Once established, the search engines will revisit the more and more you publish something new.  The next goal is to establish backlinks.  Backlinks are links from other’s web site “back” to yours.  They are also known as incoming links.

Backlinks are votes, or endorsements,  from other sites.  If another web site, of similar content, is “voting” for you by creating a link on their page to yours, the search engines will notice this and increase your ranking.

Example – suppose my site, on macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, is “backlinked” with other sites on eye disease.  It gives my site credibility and hopefully my rankings will rise.

More tomorrow.

“Randy”

Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
www.TotalRetina.com

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Part 3. "Credible Information." Using Social Media to Build Your Practice

Good morning.

I closed yesterday by talking about the need for relevant and credible information.  Providing relevant information is Google’s (and the other search engines) responsibility.  Providing credible information is my responsibility.  Promoting relevant and credible information is your responsibility.

“Because the Internet says so………………..”

Now that you are provided with relevant content, how do you know if it is reliable?  or credible?  Well, actually you don’t and this describes our present state of the internet.  “Because the Internet says so..”  assumes validity, but you and I know otherwise.  We have grown up believing that if it’s on the internet, it must be true.

Credibility is the responsibility of the content providers (me) and the also the  consumers (my readers, aka you).  Creating credible information is my responsibility.  Hard to do?  No.  Natural for me to do?  Yes.  Take this web site as an example. To me, this is simply writing down what I do every day for my patients in the office.  By writing, I share and educate.  No need for you to come see me to find out how I treat diabetic retinopathy.  I’ve spelled it out for you.

Doctors are credible sources of information.  As a retina specialist, who would be more qualified to provide reliable, credible information about diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration?  My credentials mean credibility.  This same credibility allows me to treat my patients.  In terms of health information on the internet, more professionals will need to be doing the same thing, ergo, health information becomes more credible on the internet.  More professionals need to be content providers.

Why?

The driving force behind this will be marketing.  Doctors will be the last to admit that they market, but they do.  Used to be really subtle.  Doctors traditionally lecture.  Doctors lecture at scientific meetings and become authorities.  Doctors lecture at the hospital and become consultants.  Doctors lecture at local venues and become specialists.  Doctors are the content provider, and the listening audience (composed of other doctors and non-doctors, patients, lay persons, etc.) are the consumers.  Sounding familiar?

Doctors will start to write instead of lecture.  Writing provides content.  Content rich web sites that are relevant become noticed by Google.  Google places them higher in rankings.  Doctors and their web sites will get noticed more on searches.

Ever been to a web site that hasn’t changed? Why don’t you go back?

Doctors will continue to write in order to maintain their web presence.  Web sites that do not provide relevant content and that are not “refreshed” (sites that do not provide new content) will drop lower and lower in rankings.  Sites that do provide new content will stay on top of the charts.  This is not rocket science.  If you provide credible content, you win.  Period.

Good information, like the analogy of the yard sale, is hard to find, internet or no internet.  Good information is priceless.  It reflects upon the quality of the provider and it reflects the quality of the consumer, too, when acting as a messenger to tell others.

Social media is like “word of mouth” on speed.

Thinking of a Part 4.

“Randy”

Randall V. Wong, M.D.
www.TotalRetina.com
Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist

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Making Social Media a Part of Medical Practice, Part II

I closed my last post (yesterday) with a comment that doctors are not too internet savvy.  It is true.   I do think many doctors are very good with email and can search the internet, but the rest is a blackbox, especially this social media stuff.  Doctors need to catch up.  Social media is going to make us catch up.  I want to close the gap.

One attribute of social media is the ability for one person to tell another person, or, to tell many.  What happens next is intriguing.  If your message is interesting enough to tell others, every person that you tell will perpetuate your message by telling others………..and so on and so on (the old Clairol commercial!).  Pretty soon, your message becomes “viral,” that is, your message continues to repeated exponentially (this is how viruses replicate by the way).

How does this apply to building a medical practice?  How does this apply to health care?

Social media will bring both relevance and credibility to the health care market.  It will force doctors to be more knowledgeable about the health care they deliver and force patients to be more critical about the health care they receive.  How?

The internet is like the biggest yard sale.  As you wander around, you might find something really special, or, you might not.  Chances are that you’ll find something that is okay, but not great.  The problem is that the internet is too big for you to locate exactly what you want in a reasonable amount of time and effort.  Why?

The issue is relevance.  Our computer searches are not always relevant.  We are not getting the information we are looking for.  When we search the internet, most of us lack the skills of using the correct words that correctly identify or describe our intent, i.e. what we are looking for.  It is user error.  As an example, suppose you had a fender bender this morning.  You do an internet search looking for a body shop.  What did your search find?  Did you notice there are two types of “body shops?”  One fixes cars and one fixes your flab.  You get the point.  Your search criteria weren’t specific enough.

The internet is becoming more and more relevant.  Google, Yahoo and MSN (the 3 biggies) are working hard to make your internet experience more relevant.  They can’t make us any smarter, that is, they can’t get us to use better keywords to search,  so they are learning how we individually serf/search the internet and are helping us by learning our computer habits.   With time, our searches on the internet are becoming more and more relevant.

Credibility is the next step.  How do we know what to believe?  Once we are armed with relevant, reliable and credible information……..we are off to the races!

See you tomorrow.

“Randy”

Randall V. Wong, M.D.
www.TotalRetina.com
Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist

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offices

A detached retina is potentially blinding. The retina is the light sensitive tissue that lines the inside of the eye. A retinal tear or hole usually leads to a retinal detachment. Floaters can sometimes be the earliest, and only, symptom. Many times there is little warning and a retinal detachment usually occurs without trauma.

Capital Eye Consultants
Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Contact: Brigitte O’Brien

A: 3025 Hamaker Court, Suite 101 • Fair fax, Virginia 22031
Ph: 703.876.9630
F: 703.876.0163
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Dressler Ophthalmology Associates, PLC
Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Contact: Andrea Armstrong (Surgery/Web)
Chrissy Megargee (Web)

A: 3930 Pender Drive, Suite 10 • Fairfax, Virginia 22030
Ph: 703.273.2398
F: 703.273.0239
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