The recent reassessment of payments to contractor doctors as assessable for Payroll Tax has made it more important than ever to ensure that not only do you internally have the correct agreements in place, but also externally, your marketing and operations are in line with your stated model. If your practice has a model of a “Service Entity”, that is separate to the “Practitioner Entities”, thereby protecting practitioner payments from payroll tax, it’s important that this model is apparent both internally and visible externally to the general public.
Do I really need a website?
Recent audits of practices by State Revenue Offices, (and subsequently up to the High Court where practices have gone to appeal their findings), are now focussing much more on the external appearances – particularly mentioning websites – to validate a true contractor model. They have specifically required two elements:
- It is a clear expectation that a legitimate business should have its own website, that is able to be found by potential customers (patients)
- That the website, or other advertising, makes a clear offer of its services to the public – it is a primary means of attracting patients
There is a growing stampede to create Practitioner Entity websites separate to the Service Entities where they work to protect payments to doctors and other practitioners. Doctors and health professionals tend to be a highly intelligent bunch and are capable of creating a basic site, but before you jump in and DIY on a Sunday afternoon or get the kid next door to whip up a half-done site, here are a few things to think about:
1. A website is your digital front door – it’s your first impression.
Many of your patients will have ‘Googled’ you before they meet you. Your digital presence is now what will make your first impression, not the administration team who answers the phone, or your beautifully designed consulting rooms.
2. Your website needs to reflect the professional, credible health professional that you are.
“Know, Like and Trust” are the key elements to people making any buying decision– and when we’re talking about choosing a private doctor or healthcare professional, these are infinitely more important. Your website matters. If it looks unfinished, if the design is dodgy, if it looks like a DIY-job, it won’t inspire trust. People are already on high-alert for scams – they won’t put their credit card details into a business that looks dubious, could you expect them to trust their healthcare in one?
Patients will judge your professional reputation based on the impression conveyed by your website. Think of it as the very beginning of your clinical relationship – establishing trust and respect and positive rapport. It needs to instil confidence in all who access your website, especially those who need your services.
3. You’re a legitimate Practitioner Entity – your site needs to demonstrate evidence of this.
If you’re creating a site to protect against a Payroll Tax ruling against your income, auditors will be looking for a legitimate site. Most businesses generating 100s of 1000s of dollars per annum would have a professionally designed site – not something that looks like the founder whipped it up the day before an audit.
4. ATO case outcomes specify that a practitioner’s website must be the main attractor for patients – not the service entity’s site.
Recent High Court judgements findings have specifically clarified that the Practitioner Entity’s website (and/or other advertising) is the vehicle that needs to make the ‘offer’ of services publicly to patients.
Your website (not your service entity’s) needs to present as the ‘main’ attractor of your patients. Your website should be the main place that referrers or patients can find out information about you, your specialty or interest areas and your available clinical services.
5. Healthcare is competitive – your website needs to stack up against others in the industry.
A website can be a key tool that positions you as an expert in your field or area of interest, that stands you out from other competitors. Many patients will search for “Cardiologist in Brisbane” – you may want to be visible against your competitors.
6. Your website needs to be able to be found in a Google search.
Just setting up a site is often not enough to be able to be found on Google or other internet search engines – by patients, referrers or potential future auditors. Even some basic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), particularly focussing on local search factors is a good idea in order that the people looking for you, can actually find you.
If you want to rank at number one on Google, or to particularly outrank some of your competitors, then specific efforts need to be invested into Search Engine Optimisation – and usually this means working with an experienced SEO specialist.
7. Security and data protection is critical in medical professionals’ websites.
Every healthcare and medical website needs to ensure its security. As soon as a patient completes an enquiry form, you are taking responsibility for protected health information – and you can be at risk of hacking or reportable data breaches – which are becoming increasingly common in both healthcare and in smaller businesses.
Your website needs to be maintained and updated – this protects against security flaws. Reliable hosting and ongoing maintenance of your website is a must for any healthcare business.
To maximise your online impact, engage a professional healthcare agency to create and manage your website.
While you can certainly jump in and DIY a website to meet the basic criteria, this article has discussed some additional factors to consider when presenting yourself online, and the benefits of engaging a professional health-specialist website company.
If you need help, Plain Speaking Health has a full website and Search Engine Optimisation service – from a company founded in healthcare that actually understands the complexity of Payroll Tax contracts and business implementation impacts.
We have several packages for Service Entity and Practitioner Entity websites – we’ll write, design, build and maintain your site for you so that you don’t have to spend hours of your own time working it out. Contact us to find out more.