Should doctors grab a .health domain?

Should doctors grab a .health domain?So, you’re setting up a website for your practice. You thought you’d just grab a .com, .net, or maybe .info. But now there’s .health. Will one of those set you apart from the .com crowd?

So what do you need to know about these new domains?

1. Will patients come looking for me on .health? The bottom line is that it’s highly unlikely patients will try to guess permutations of your name with the .health appended. According to a 2013 Pew study, eight in ten people start their health queries at the Google machine — clicking through the path of least resistance. And as it stands, unless you have some serious search engine optimization mojo, your existing online profiles at .edu or LinkedIn will surface first.

2. Who else will occupy .health with me? If you were moving into a neighborhood, you’d probably choose realtors who have all the listings and know the area best. Most realtors also help landlords verify tenant eligibility with credit checks and checking applications.

Same idea with new top level domains. For online domains, the landlord is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees new domains. ICANN selects certain marketing companies that act as realtors to market and sell the domains. In this case, ICANN seems to be assigning marketing rights to companies that some observers worry will not perform any background checks or validation of prospective .health neighbors.

Tim K. Mackey, MAS, PhD, an investigator at the San Diego Center for Patient Safety at the University of San Diego, scrutinized .health’s potential “realtors” in a recent paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. Only one company has any controls, and it’s unclear if they will follow up/monitor them. Mackey singled out Donuts Inc., one of the four companies vying for marketing rights to sell the .health domains.

“The way ICANN is treating .health now, it will likely be awarded in a month or so to a private company that has virtually no experience in medicine or public health,” Mackey wrote in an email to MedPage Today. “A lot of these companies are under serious pressure to make the domain profitable, so they will open it up to pretty much anyone for registration.”

Jon Nevett, co-founder of Donuts, told MedPage Today in a phone interview that the validation requirements fall on the shoulders of a government advisory committee.

“We believe in consumer choice,” Nevett said. “The committee determined there should be opportunities for people to buy domains like financial.health and computer.health.”

3. Should doctors grab a .health domain? If doctors wanted to pre-empt misleading information by moving into the neighborhood first, that might help. But on the other hand, “if .health ends up being populated with poor information, it may not be of value and worth waiting out,” Mackey said.

4. What are the alternatives? Doctors might be better off waiting for domains such as .doctor, .medical, or .surgery, which are in the works, according to Mackey and Nevett. The government advisory committee hasdetermined that those domains will be what’s known as “highly regulated,” while .health domains are simply “regulated.”

Mackey added that two out of three of the .doctor marketing company applicants have said that future registrants will be limited to physicians with applicable licenses.

5. How much will it cost? Based on the way other specialty domains have sold, Nevett estimates that domains like .doctor will likely cost around $40 on average, compared to roughly $20 for a .com.

The bottom line?

“Medical professionals can select better domain names that mean more, and provide value for doctors like branding a new practice,” Nevett said. “You won’t need the .com anymore.”

Elbert Chu is an associate producer, MedPage Today, where this article originally appeared.

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  • Arby

    I was very excited reading about the up and coming domains. Not necessarily the .health domain because of the issues addressed in the article, but about the to be regulated domains of doctor .medical and .surgery.

    I am not a physician, just someone in charge of my own health, and I would love to have a domain that I could go to find valid, factual information about health, medications, treatments, etc. The new regulated sites would be a great relief from all of the phony side-effect aggregators and all of the sites that want to sell me medications online without a script.

    .

  • http://www.ronsmithmd.com/ Ron Smith

    Hi, Elbert and everyone.

    Personally I would welcome a .doctor regulated domain and would purchase to add to mine.

    However, for people who look for me content is still king. In order to help my parents, I created a site with my professional articles online. There are a ton of articles with practical information that I teach parents every day. I even wrote a ebook with thorough and complete information.

    Content is better than trackbacks or simple occasional blogs at search engine results. If you want to see what I mean, then go google ‘ron smith md’ to start. I see 8 of the 10 links are to me and the top seven are mine and some of them are not even directly to my sites! My main patient information is at thepediatricguide.com!

    Now I’m not telling you this to boast. I didn’t have anyone selling me search engine optimization services or paying google or anyone else to do anything. If providers want to be seen then you need to publish lots of good content. I recommend that all providers get themselves registered. I registered ronsmithmd with suffixes of .com and .net and .info and .org

    This will fend off domain name cybersquatters who will want to sell you back your own space.

    Get your own website up. I recommend WordPress. I’ve used another blog software called Joomla and have looked at Drupal, neither of which I personally liked. There are plenty of people that can help get your WordPress site up with your own domain names like mine, and WordPress is fairly easy to manage updates which are vital for websites.

    There are plenty of themes to choose from as well…themes for the uninitiated is just the look and feel. You can change themes without affecting the content you produce as well.

    Remember blogging is fine, but real content is king! The more articles that you write that have medical information that *patients* want to read, the better. Opinion is just that…opinion. Everyone is a philosopher, but the qualified providers talking real exam room stuff is what patients want.

    If you are new to writing article, don’t make that an excuse not too. You’re going to have misspellings, and sometimes really butcher the content. That’s the way you learn to write better! Stick with it though!

    Warmest regards,

    Ron Smith, MD
    www (adot) ronsmithmd (adot) com

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