In my personal opinion, yes, undoubtedly. Any laboratory that has users outwith its institution should have a public website. And because I define laboratory users as comprising both the test requestors and the patients, this means that virtually every laboratory has users outwith the confines of its parent institution.
Why do clinical microbiology laboratories need websites?
I think microbiology laboratories (and all laboratories for that matter) need a website for three key reasons:
Communication: Letting users know about changes in laboratory protocol, new tests, latest information on outbreaks etc.
Information: e.g. Current key staff members, operating hours, collection centres, test lists including which tests are sent away, sample collection protocols
As a portal for users to contact the laboratory and to feedback any comments about the laboratory service.
Obviously clinical microbiology can be a sub-section of a larger laboratory website which covers all the disciplines.
Websites are so ridiculously easy to set up and maintain these days that anyone can do it (I am living proof of this….), so all clinical microbiology laboratories should at least be thinking about it.
The other key message here is that it is not enough just to set it up and leave it. This is what I call a static website. Websites that are updated from time to time with new information makes it more interesting to the viewer and helps to build relationships up between the laboratory and its users.
April has been a difficult month, trying to find the time to fit everything in. With the move to Paris getting closer, organising flights, shipping, schools, accommodation, trans-global transfer of cats etc etc, has left little time to build the Microbiology Matters website. As a consequence the articles have been a little less frequent and a little more rushed than usual. The upside of this time pressure is that I now have a little queue of ideas in my head, waiting impatiently to get put onto “paper”.
Despite this the website continues to grow slowly but steadily, both in content and visitors, with the stats recording 3200 visitors and 21500 “page hits” over the month of April. My goal for May is to attract 1000 visitors a week to the website.
I have produced an “icon” in the laboratory for the website (see below). I just need to edit it now to a circular shape and get someone with HTML knowledge to position it on each screen. Hopefully in the next week or two.
I doubt the next couple of months will be any easier, what with time closing in. I do plan to introduce a new subset to the educational section, that of “Result Interpretation”, looking at different microbiological result scenarios and how best they might be interpreted.
I did wonder about getting professional help to make the website look more “polished” and also about getting some commercial sponsorship. However on reflection I quite like having an “independent”, non-commercial website. I will let it be my “point of difference”, for the moment anyway…
The Microbiology Matters website has now been up and running for two months.
During February 2013 there were 1450 visitors (hits) to the website and 13,400 “page visits”. So definitely enough interest there to keep (me) going.
The plans I have for the website over the next few months are as follows:
Develop a “careers” sub-section on the site describing all the different forms of employment available within microbiology.
Start a weekly/fortnightly microbiology picture quiz.
Develop user-friendly tutorials on PCR and MALDI-TOF.
Add further guidelines and links.
Ask people with specialist knowledge in certain areas to contribute articles to the site.
Continue to promote the website amongst microbiology communities worldwide.
Continue optimising design and appearance of the site.
Consider getting sponsorship from microbiology companies for the website.
So just a few things to keep me busy…
I guess the first part of a project is always the easiest (That is when there is lots of enthusiasm). Now the focus is on developing something that is both sustainable on my part and maintains interest amongst viewers. Please feedback any other ideas you might have.
Thank you to all those who have visited the website so far!