The healthcare digital front door: Make sure yours is open and engaging
By Corey Gaarde
Ease, convenience, and timely access to healthcare providers and information is more important than ever as a result of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing. Case in point: The number of telehealth appointments grew by more than 50 percent at the start of the pandemic, leading researchers to project that virtual healthcare interactions could exceed 1 billion by the end of the year.
As a result, healthcare systems are racing to engage with patients through new and innovative ways – including the digital front door.
A digital front door guides and engages patients and others whether they physically enter a hospital or clinic or not. A small sample of the components could include:
- The healthcare system’s website, mobile app, and in-app messaging
- Portal to medical record information or EMR
- Virtual care/telehealth visits
- Appointment scheduling
- Automated health assessments
- Integrated wellness wearables tied to their health record
- Tools that simplify a patient’s registration and admittance
- Concierge level experiences allowing patients to order meals or control their room’s entertainment, education, HVAC, lights, shades, etc.
And while traditionally it has been the physical front door of a hospital or a clinic that welcomed patients and visitors with receptionists and signage to guide them where they needed to go, the digital front door enhances this guidance by providing easier access to parking; personalized wayfinding via digital signage; geo-fencing to alert staff of their presence on campus before they reach reception; all while integrating with their digital health information for seamless care and an improved experience.
As COVID-19 continues to change the landscape of healthcare technology, hospitals should remember that their digital front door strategy is not about the technology, rather about the experience. To create a successful digital front door experience, healthcare systems should include the following actions:
Identify a champion. Leadership support is paramount when embarking on a new or even enhanced strategy, especially when it impacts the brand and the experience. The strategy’s champion – potentially a chief experience officer, chief quality officer, chief marketing officer, or even patient/community liaison – needs to lead the effort and partner with IT to ensure the broad goals of the organization are aligned and scope and resources are managed.
Engage the right players. It is important to gain perspective and input from various departments and the patient community (or advocacy group) in the planning and execution of the digital front door. The strategy should be both public facing and internal facing. Caregivers, support staff, marketing/PR, business development, vendors, patients, families, and the community can all interact through the platform and all should have a voice in its development.
Establish a vision. A digital front door strategy can and should be transformative. As noted in the Becker’s Health IT article, 10 big advancements in healthcare tech during the pandemic, “Many now see their ‘digital front door’ as the first impression potential patients have of their health system, and their online experience can make or break their reputation.” Before choosing technologies, then, it is critical to collaborate on creating a vision that includes focused experiences and workflows, targeted outcomes, key milestones, and a phased approach.
Technology should never replace personal interaction when providing healthcare services but rather enhance the experience. Determining who will lead the effort and establishing the vision and goals for your organization and patient care community is just the beginning of your digital journey. The future opportunities are endless.
By taking the time to ensure your digital front door is engaging and easy to use, you will be successful in empowering and enabling all who encounter your healthcare system.