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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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Medical Blogger: What's in a Name?

Am I a Medical Blogger?

A “blogger” is someone who blogs.  “Blogging” is the act of writing articles, usually about a personal opinion, or posts, and publishing them on a blog.  A “medical blogger”  is usually a doctor that blogs about medical issues.  I am not sure where I fit in.  I am a blogger and I am a doctor, but I try to keep my opinions to myself.

Blogging is Writing to Persuade

As I discussed last time, blogs have become quite popular for a variety of reasons.  From a bloggers perspective, publishing an essay on the Internet, using blogging software, is a snap; both easy and fast.

I spend most of my time, sometimes as often as 5 days a week, creating content for RetinaEyeDoctor.com.  It has become a passion of mine for almost a year (I started April 2009).

While I am technically a blogger, there is a true distinction between myself and other bloggers.  I intentionally avoid expressing my opinion.   I try, as best as I can, to write objectively in order to teach.

Most other bloggers write to persuade.  I believe this to be a huge difference.

Medical Blogging

There are some notable medical bloggers.  Dr. Val, KevinMD and DrRob to name some popular ones.  They, too, are doctors and bloggers.  They are typical “medical bloggers.”

Most of their blogging is focused on politics and trends in medicine.  Often there may be an article offering a glimpse into a doc’s life, but still their writing is mostly opinion, perspective and persuasion.

I don’t think I really can run with these guys.

I Need a Home

I actually need a name.  I need to create my own name.  I need  a name that accurately, and fairly describes what I am doing;

I am a doctorblogger but I don’t write normal doctor blogging stuff.  I write about accurate health information regarding two causes of blindness.

Any suggestions?

Using a Blog to Teach

My true objective is to teach and provide health information.  I just use a blog as a format.  If blogs are synonymous with web sites, and from a reader’s perspective, they are the same, then I am creating an authority web site focused on eye disease; diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.

A physician is an authority on health and medicine.  I aim to use this knowledge and authority to promote better health info on the web.

So, who am I?

What Does This Mean? We need to carve out a niche and distinguish ourselves from true “bloggers,”  medical or otherwise.  It may be too early to really define a new term describing what I do here, but perhaps, in the near future, more and more will catch on.

Certainly there is an unmet need for providing good health content on the web.  At some point, other docs will realize that they, too, can contribute and meet their own patients here!

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Doctors Improve the Internet!

Doctors can improve the Internet.  Doctors could be creating more web sites that provide good, credible health information, or content, to educate the public.  There is a paucity of reliable “experts” writing on health.  The timing is perfect for docs to become more involved.

Stop Playing Doctor

Too few doctors really use the Internet to engage patients.  There is the mistaken belief that by doing so we may breach patient confidentiality or that we may be liable for advice we give.

So stop playing doctor.  Use the Internet to inform, to educate.  Leave the advice and treatment plans in the office; where it belongs.

Creating a Primary Resource

We all know that good, reliable health information is hard to find on the Internet.  There are lots of web pages out there, but most are written by “perceived” experts.  Perceived experts are those that have taken the time to create content, but it isn’t necessarily good content.  Many times perceived experts are actually trying to sell a product; vitamins and diet plans are good examples.

Doctors, however, are the authority figures.  They are the experts and along with “authority” comes credibility.  Docs use this authority in the office everyday seeing patients.  This same authority could be used on the Internet to create more accurate and relevant health content.

If docs are able to serve as primary resources of information, the health information on the web gets better.

“Just the Facts, Maam” (Sgt. Joe Friday, “Dragnet”)

What am I talking about?  I am not talking about offering medical advice over the Internet.  I am not talking about forming a relationship with a patient online via email or FaceBook.  That would take too much time and would be wrong.

I am; however, interested in getting more docs to publish information about health – for the sole purpose of educating.  For instance, on this web site I educate about two retinal diseases; diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.  I have written quite a few articles about the diseases and provide information so others can learn.  I have chosen to share my knowledge.  In contrast, I am NOT offering medical advice nor offering treatments or recommendations per se.

As they used to say on Dragnet, ” Just the facts, maam.”

What Does This Mean? A doctor’s expertise is broken into several parts.  One part of expertise is knowledge and I am advocating that more docs share their knowledge.

Docs like to participate in speaking engagements all the time.  There is not much difference between giving a lecture and preparing content for the web.  In fact, content for the web can be in many formats; including Power Point.

My point is that docs to this same sort of “soft” marketing and lecturing already.  There really is no difference between giving a lecture and preparing content for the web.  It’s stuff we know and are sharing.

Another facet of “expertise” is experience.  Doctors distinguish themselves by their experience, not necessarily their knowledge.  Knowledge without experience is useless.  A doctor can NOT use his experience over the Internet.

A doctor’s experience does not exist on the web, but his knowledge certainly could.

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My Opinion About Medical Blogging

“Blog” is short for “web log.”

The term blog commonly refers to a web site that is run by one person and represents that person’s commentary, or opinion,  on a particular subject.  Blogs became very popular several years ago because they were “interactive.”  People could read an article, or “post,” and leave their own comment!  The interactive component made blogs an instant success.  Spam, however, has quickly quieted this advantage, but blogs remain very popular (according to Technorati, there are well over 112 million blogs!)

Blogging software is slightly different than web-page software.  Basically, blog software allows great flexibility, efficiency and convenience for the owner.  For example, I am able to write and “post” with a push of the button.  I don’t have to spend much time worrying about the mechanical aspects of the site nor the appearance.  It allows me to make most of my time, writing and providing content.  (For more technical aspects of how I created this blog, there are a few posts on the subject heading “Creating This Blog.”)

The ability to easily add new content, is perhaps, the best advantage of blogs.  I can write, click and post.  It is that simple.  I can do it from any internet connection and from any computer.

Content is what brings you, the readers, back for more.

“Medical Commentary”

The content of most blogs, is the individuals personal opinion about a subject.  It is the modern day “soap box.”  Most medical blogs are a physician’s view of politics, health care, etc.  It occupies a very “grey” area for most doctors.  “Blogging” to most doctors means giving medical advice.

Medical bloggers such as kevinmd, dr. rob and dr. val commonly write and inform about health policy, politics, etc.  There is usually no medical advice.  These are a few of the physician pioneers that have entered the blogosphere.

“Credible Sources of Information”

Technically, www.RetineEyeDoctor.com is a blog.  It uses blog software, is written (at this time) by one individual and contains content.  I add to this content 4-7 times per week.

My goal, is not to provide my commentary on diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration, but to provide useful information about these diseases to my readers.  My goal is to inform and teach.  My goal is to provide a credible source of medical information on the internet.

May be this will be a new form of “medical blogging.”  I hope it catches on.  More and more doctors should do this.  It is our responsibility.

“Randy”

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

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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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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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