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Bayfront spins an adventure on computer site

Wouldn't it be great if you could call up your doctor's schedule by computer and make your own appointment?

That's one service Bayfront Medical Center hopes to offer through its state-of-the-art site on the World Wide Web.

That and much more: information about specific diseases and health problems, games for children, interactive areas for adults, listings of community events and the chance to talk with Bayfront physicians.

Interested in a career in medicine? Bayfront's Web site has information. Want to work at Bayfront? Job listings are here as well.

The hospital leaped into cyberspace last week with a colorful, active Web site that is ahead of the cyber-offerings of most hospitals in the country.

In a design expected to be a prototype for similar projects around the country, Bayfront's Web site offers not only local information but serves as a gateway to the vast universe of health information on the Internet.

So much is out there, some good, some bad, that navigating can be confusing and frustrating. Finding the answer to a simple health question or researching a specific disease can take a long time, especially on a home computer.

Bayfront's new site can help. Bayfront's pages will offer links to other, related sites that offer trustworthy information. In an unusual design, the Internet sites will be displayed within a Bayfront page, so users can quickly and easily find their way back to where they started.

"We have a lot of information," said CeCe Bowman, a marketing associate at Bayfront and now the hospital's Webmaster. "If we don't have it, we want to link you to a place that does."

Clearly, Bayfront wants to be on the information highway for name recognition and to make a pitch for Bayfront physicians and services.

"There is a huge market out there," said Bayfront spokesman Rob Sumner. "A lot of people are getting information off Web sites and we really believe this is an area where we should be represented."

While many hospitals post only information about services and phone numbers, Bayfront has created a cyber-version of its 4-year-old Community Resource Center in downtown St. Petersburg, which offers a wealth of health information.

The graphics and design alone make a visit worthwhile. Called Bayfront's Health Adventure, the style is Indiana Jones and almost every page has a moving image: trees blowing in the wind, a Jane-like jungle woman swinging from a tree, an elephant lifting its trunk, a snake slithering along the ground.

Only one of four main areas contains facts about Bayfront and information about physicians and services. That area includes a physician finder that lets users search for a physician by the type of insurance accepted, specialty, name, ZIP code, or any combination.

Other areas offer health-related classes at Bayfront and elsewhere, a medical word of the day, medical news, health information for women, interactive quizzes and a health risk assessment. Many of the articles and areas vary from month to month.

Bowman said Bayfront envisions partnerships with local businesses to help develop the site and reach out to the community. Users will be able to link to sites posted by other businesses.

Eventually, they may be able to find Bayfront's Web page in some unusual places. One plan is for a computer screen to be placed on treadmills and bicycles at Lifestyle Family Fitness and Racquet Club near Tyrone Square Mall so exercisers can read about health and fitness while they work out.

When Bowman needed a picture of James Earl Jones for this month's celebrity profile, she commissioned local artist Sherman Whitted to paint a picture of Jones. The painting is posted on the Web page.

Bowman also plans to work with the Pinellas County school system to develop more material for the children's section.

"We wanted this to be a real partnership with the Tampa Bay community," she said.

What's up and running now is phase one. Bowman said the hospital is planning two more phases of development that should be completed within months. Users of the site are invited to make suggestions.

Planning for the Web site started in July, when Bowman spent days viewing the Web sites of most hospitals in the country.

"I was very disappointed with the quality of the graphics and the design," Bowman said.

Bowman realized the hospital needed professional help and turned to Douglas Goldstein, president of Medical Alliances of Alexandria, Va., a Web site developer and a national expert in the Internet world of health and wellness.

"Bayfront is a co-founder with us in this project to roll out regionally focused, consumer-friendly health care information that people can trust," Goldstein said. "It's a living, breathing, evolving site. It's a site that's inviting consumers in to let us know what they're interested in."

Want a peek?

If you have access to the Internet, you can call up the Bayfront Health Adventure at this address: http://www.bay-front.org

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