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Digital Door Strategies Are Defining a New Era of Patient Experience in Healthcare

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The healthcare industry has traditionally lagged behind other industries when it has come to the digitization of core operational practices, but recent developments have been nothing short of transformational. The onset of the pandemic, in particular, has required the healthcare industry to adopt new procedures and policies, and with that, digital capabilities, both out of necessity and an urgency to meet patient demand. This has introduced the “digital front door” as industry standard nomenclature for the strategic framework for patient engagement at each and every touchpoint of their journey and using technology that they are familiar with. Providers’ digital front doors span customer calls to a contact center, patient self-service administrative functions via patient portals, and direct patient–provider interactions through telehealth modalities. Each provider organization’s digital front door strategy is a function of its strategic objectives in terms of access and outcomes goals and priorities that reflect prevalent health conditions, populations served, budget resources, technological capacity, and existing workflows.

There are also numerous single-point solutions that providers can adopt for their operational practices across the entirety of a patient’s care journey, such as helping patients find providers (ZocDoc, Kareo, QualityCare Connect ), schedule appointments and obtain pre-authorizations (One Medical/Iora Health, CityMD), manage communication with providers (Abridge, GYANT), manage care remotely (Conversa Health, Carbon Health), and handle billing and payment processing (Cedar, Paytient, Salcuro). The implementation trend for large health systems has been to adopt an integrated approach with digital front door technologies through acquisitions, partnerships, or their own build strategies. The UK National Health Service’s NHSX initiative sets the overall strategy nationally to digitize services, connect health and social services through technology, and transform how patient care is delivered, while Providence in the US has formed an internal digital innovation group to accelerate the adoption of digital technology in healthcare. The state of Massachusetts has gone further by establishing a regional cluster that is a public-private partnership focused on digital health innovation, Mass Digital Health.

Because there is currently no one-size-fits-all approach to the digital front door strategy in healthcare in terms of technology platform choices or implementations, common to all is the goal that the entire patient experience is seamless and consistent. It is also important for healthcare providers to be fully capable of leveraging technology at each patient interaction to effectively deliver superior patient experience, an important consideration in a provider’s ability to build loyalty and a brand for competitive advantage. Perhaps this is even more important today than before with patients being increasingly mobile in terms of where they can access care. Achieving these strategic goals remains a work in progress, and no less challenging because providers are not being compared to their peers, but consumer experiences in non-healthcare industries. Patients as consumers have become accustomed to, and therefore have high expectations and demands for, frictionless, end-to-end digital experiences.

Nobody would disagree that healthcare is not easy or that the patient journey is any less complicated than purchasing a product on Amazon or streaming a movie on Netflix. The patient journey extends beyond the traditional brick and mortar of the clinic or hospital, involves interactions that can extend well beyond traditional patient-provider interactions, and relies on a person’s sense of agency to be self-directed to independently manage their health. Added to this is an industry that relies on manual processes and faces barriers to data liquidity, a new era of competition with major retailers entering the space, and a re-examination of traditional patient experience metrics and measurement methods. And as patients increasingly expect personalized and proactive experiences, the cost to a provider of not being able to demonstrate that they know their customer, understand their needs, coordinate their care, and deliver on that efficiently will be huge.

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