We are all swayed by the attractiveness of a good website. We are all connoisseurs now, having seen thousands (millions?), and we’ve all become accustomed to judging a product by its website. A poorly made website often connotes a poor product. Why would that be any different in medicine?
Employed vs private practice
The physician’s website is likely determined by whether s/he is employed or in private practice.
Websites for employed doctors are often terrible
Employed doctors, which now make up 47% of all physicians, don’t control their own websites.
These sites are designed by the employer, and the physician may or may not even know the site exists. They may have been asked in passing during orientation what information should be included on the website, and then never asked again.
Thus, the information there may be incomplete, and usually doesn’t change over the course of a career. Physicians may change their focus, win a prize, or publish a major paper, and I can guarantee that no one thinks to ask the physician for that information to put it on the website.
Physician sites are kind of an afterthought for both employer and physician, though this is slowly changing.
Private practice doctors have more control over their websites
Private practice doctors in small practices may not have a website at all, which reflects the web-savvy of the physician and his or her staff much more than their doctoring ability.
They often don’t need a site to fill their clinics, and view it as more of a hassle than anything else. I think this will become less common as more young physicians have more of a say in how a practice runs.
The most attractive websites are likely to be run by practices that rely on cash business for at least a portion of their income. These physicians realize that their patients are more likely to shop around before committing, and want to put their best foot forward with their website.
As you’ve seen, websites are more of a marketing tool than a reflection of physician skill or knowledge. You should evaluate them accordingly.