Why Does an LOC need a public web presence?
LOCs can now take control of the message they want to portray to the public, decide on their specialities, and improve sight test uptake for their members.
Many LOCs have sites that are publicly accessible but not necessarily directed at the public. However, there are many reasons why an LOC might wish to direct important information to the public. As we all know, there have been many pushes to get professionals both as groups and individuals to communicate with the public via the internet. The latest, of course, is NHS Choices, which in many areas is causing a headache for practice with lack of access to their records compounded by inaccurate information in the first place.
So let’s look at why an LOC might wish to connect with its local public. The most obvious is basic awareness of the services optometrists and dispensing opticians can provide. Yes, there are national campaigns aimed at increasing awareness of eye health issues in general or specific diseases or sectors of the population but these won’t always deal with the specific issues that might affect your local population. In essence, your own public presence gives you the opportunity to focus on exactly what you want to and change your message with the seasons or whenever it suits. One issue that comes up in some areas of the country is simply to low uptake of sight tests. Whilst you might not consider this an area of your LOC’s responsibility, it is important to promote the importance of having a sight test and with GOS payments now devolved to PCTs, it’s unlikely that your local PCT will be promoting a way of getting rid of even more of its cash-strapped budget! And of course, you can make sure that your information is more accurate than the PCTs by timely updates!
Cornwall LOC are one such LOC who have embarked on a PR campaign to encourage the public to visit their optician. They will be producing an information leaflet to be distributed to all GP surgeries, health centres, and libraries. This will have details of Cornwall’s public website (www.cornwalleyecare.co.uk) where patients can find more details about having their eyes tested and various eye conditions as well as a list of all practices in Cornwall. Alison Williams, Chairman of the LOC, said, “As an LOC we felt that it was important to be pro-actively engaging with the public and the publication of our information leaflet in conjunction with the public website gives us the ideal platform to do this”. PHN for its part will be giving all available assistance to ensure that Cornwall’s public pages rank highly on search engines and create highly visible links from the main mylocaloptician pages which receive around 30,000 visits per month.
There may also be a need to inform the public about specific services such as the ACES scheme in Somerset. From Somerset’s public site (www.somerseteyecare.co.uk) patients can find information about the ACES service and which practices are participating. David Bull, Chairman of Somerset LOC said, “In particular with an acute service where patients are generally seen within 24 hours, it is important that we can point patients towards the most appropriate service. Over periods such as Christmas, when many practices have reduced opening hours, we are able to point patients to those practices which will be able to see them within the necessary timescale. As PCT resources become more stretched, the LOC has an important role in informing the public, and our public site helps us do just that.”
In conclusion, a good public site is a way of promoting eyecare locally, promoting specific services, and of course ultimately supporting local contractors which is who the LOC is there for.
PHN public websites, linked to www.mylocaloptician.co.uk are available for £400 plus VAT per annum. Offers are available for those taking both a secure and public site. Please call 020 8776 9542 for details or email firstname.lastname@example.org.