The Digital Front Door in Healthcare

January 17, 2024 | Caroline Habrowski
The Digital Front Door in Healthcare

In the face of rapidly changing consumer expectations and increased consumer engagement in their health and wellness, healthcare has shifted toward a more digital-friendly and patient-centric approach. Healthcare digital transformation (DX) is on the rise and was a key theme at many industry conferences this past year. It’s clear that the future of healthcare relies on digital experiences that place the patient’s needs and requirements first.

This shift extends beyond digital technology adoption. Healthcare organizations know that they must adapt to patients’ evolving needs in a way that aligns health services with their expectations – from enabling more seamless healthcare ecosystems to delivering more equitable and accessible healthcare experiences.

Changing consumer expectations are driving innovation in the healthcare field and improving how we approach healthcare.

What is a ‘Digital Front Door’?

The “digital front door” is any touchpoint where providers and payers can digitally interact with patients or members to drive better access, engagement, and experiences across the service continuum. This often includes an omnichannel customer engagement strategy focused on improving the patient experience at every touchpoint in the consumer journey and scaling beyond the physical walls of a healthcare system. Think streamlined interactions and communication with healthcare providers both at the point of care as well as with remote monitoring for patients or caregivers to manage their healthcare journey.

The emphasis on access, engagement, and more personalized experiences is a huge shift from just a few years ago when this was merely an aspiration. A strong digital front door strategy not only leverages technology across various products and platforms to expand patient access and increase patient satisfaction – but also proactively guides patients to the right care at the right time and delivers proactive health actions based on medical histories, health information and self-reported data.

The industry is at an inflection point where health systems recognize the digital front door’s pivotal role in ensuring next-level healthcare delivery across the patient journey. According to a 2022 report by CB Insights, investments for digital front doors in healthcare reached a record high of $1.9 billion in 2021, up 67% year-over-year. The same report also cites that access to digital scheduling, provider profiles, and virtual care options have become the largest determining factors in a patient’s choice of provider.

How Digital Health Mirrors Other Industries

While the front door terminology specifically applies to healthcare, the concept of providing seamless and convenient experiences is applicable across industries. In fact, healthcare companies often take lessons from other industries. In recent years, large academic medical centers, such as Johns Hopkins University and Cleveland Clinic, have incorporated elements from grocery stores and airports into their layouts and wayfinding.

Additionally, healthcare organizations have been known to adopt mobile experiences and layouts from the banking sector, given the similarities in regulatory and interoperability protocols. While the healthcare industry still struggles with some foundational interoperability issues that banking has solved, consumers expect a similar level of convenience, accessibility, and personalization in healthcare services as in other aspects of their lives.

The key driver of digital adoption in healthcare is convenience. Not only have consumers become more engaged in their own care, they’ve also come to expect personalized experiences throughout their interactions. Companies like Amazon, Apple, and Netflix have long provided exceptional digital experiences, including offering same-day shipping, seamless integration, user-friendly interfaces, and streaming entertainment. Consumers have come to expect this across all aspects of their lives. How does this translate with healthcare providers today? One example is an online check-in or kiosk-enabled check-in upon arrival at a healthcare facility versus idling in line or exchanging multiple pieces of documentation in an inconvenient setting. Online payments, online appointment scheduling, and satisfaction surveys are all additional user-friendly digital experiences that are quickly becoming implemented industry-wide.

Creating a digital front door not only connects multiple disjointed experiences and improves the overall experience but also delivers proactive health actions.  From offering a one-stop shop for healthcare needs to improving how healthcare is received, the front door leads to significant gains in the medical field. As new technologies such as IoT devices, ambient computing, and artificial intelligence emerge, the options and potential for digital technology integration and improved healthcare are limitless—provided the applications are relevant, timely, and useful to the end user.

Unifying Fractured Healthcare Systems

The healthcare system has long suffered from fragmentation. Patients must juggle multiple healthcare portals, each with its own set of unique logins, interfaces, and information. This fragmentation can lead to inefficiencies, frustration, anxiety, and miscommunication. A front door for healthcare can bridge these gaps and create a seamless ecosystem that helps improve care continuity, enhance care coordination, and reduce the likelihood of errors or miscommunication. In addition to streamlining healthcare services, another purpose of digital front doors is to improve the overall quality of care and to be able to access a holistic health record.

In navigating complex, disconnected services, teams rely on digital health platforms that serve as a centralized hub for care management and patient engagement. These platforms can integrate with electronic health records (EHRs), wearable devices, and bring together disparate  point solutions into a single cohesive experience for patients. CX Platforms – including League – create highly connected, on-demand, and personalized health experiences for patients and streamline engagement from care discovery and scheduling, to payments, digital care pathways, and renewals. Digital Experience Platforms such as Adobe and Acquia can transform an organization’s ability to provide market-leading personalized experiences for patients and providers working in the digital environment.

The front door is enabling more seamless coordination and communication of care across healthcare providers – from pharmacies and nutritionists to mental health professionals. And also facilitating personalized care plans that consider the unique needs and preferences of each patient. A collaborative and patient-centered approach will ultimately help connect patients more easily to their team of physicians, specialists, and nurses and ensure better access to healthcare.

Improving Health Equity and Access

A front door for digital health is designed to facilitate ease and accessibility for all users. It can simplify the healthcare experience and minimize barriers to entry. This is especially important in a world where equitable access to healthcare is a growing concern.

From telehealth and virtual care services –  to remote monitoring and wearable tracking devices – patients should have the flexibility to be able to prioritize their healthcare on their terms.

With more access to managing healthcare needs, consumers are empowered to take greater control of their health, encouraging proactive engagement in their well-being.

Digital tools can be used to connect with hard to reach or underrepresented groups and de-stigmatize showing up or calling in to a clinical setting where people may not feel as comfortable. They’re helping to reduce barriers by meeting people where they are and creating opportunity for culturally conscious care to be delivered in a seamless way where the patient is in control.

Continuous Improvement

Creating a front door for digital health is one of the most exciting advances in the healthcare industry today and will reshape how everyone experiences care.  As the industry embraces digital transformation, patients will be pivotal in driving personalized and accessible healthcare experiences. With technological advances and the evolution of healthcare, we can reduce the burden of managing complex health issues, enable more equitable and accessible healthcare experiences, and revolutionize access to healthcare services to ultimately improve health outcomes.