The digital front door strategy offers an enhanced patient experience by leveraging the latest technology to automate manual workflows and digitally engage patients through different stages of the patient journey. A recent survey by Accenture reported that 60% of patients want to use technology more to communicate with their healthcare providers and manage their care.
To unlock the full potential of their digital front door strategy, leading health systems are implementing digital care journey platforms to expand patient access, improve clinical outcomes, drive higher patient satisfaction and reduce high cost services. With the appropriate technology, patients can feel engaged and connected to their providers throughout their entire care journey.
Information is so easily accessible for patients. They are able to make more informed decisions in regards to their healthcare using the reputable sources that are available to them. One trend affecting patient behavior and the underlying factor for more and more health systems adopting a digital patient engagement approach is healthcare consumerism, which essentially highlights the convenience of getting what you want – in this case, healthcare services – now. This phenomenon has skyrocketed due to many essential services being instantly accessible through everyday technology such as smartphones, computers, tablets, etc.
Another digital patient engagement trend is the shift toward value-based care. Healthcare systems are increasingly leveraging technology in order to standardize the delivery of care, and reduce high-cost services such as readmissions and ED visits. Other priorities to address the shift to value-based care include ensuring that the chosen technology leads to higher patient satisfaction and engagement, and improving the general quality of care and patient outcomes. Gregory D. Rushing, MD Division of Cardiac Surgery University Hospitals shares, “Phone call volumes can overwhelm staff and negatively impact operational efficiencies. By providing patients with the tools to effectively self-manage from home, patients are less likely to require multiple follow-up phone calls.”
A third trend that has gained popularity in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic is the growing patient expectation for remote healthcare services beyond one-off telemedicine visits; patients expect digital engagement throughout their entire care journey. As such, healthcare organizations are opting to implement technology like virtual care companions or digital care journeys that engage patients both in and out of the hospital. As Paige McCall, Vice President System Service Lines, MultiCare shared during a recent webinar, “When you think about your communities and COVID and all the things that we have really been under pressure about in the last year, year and a half, having this digital engagement has really been helpful, particularly for those patients who might live in rural communities or not necessarily have transportation that gets them quickly to a provider. Having the comfort of being able to ask questions and have their concerns alleviated or receive next steps from their care team really has been the thing that we have felt so proud about, and happy to be able to service our patients in this way.”
By strengthening the hospital’s digital front door strategy to engage patients across all touchpoints in their care journey, patients are granted increased efficiency, convenience and access to healthcare. In order to achieve these outcomes, hospital’s need to evaluate what core workflows, technology platforms and integrations need to be included in their digital front door strategy for higher-quality, lower-cost care. The following are four key components of a strong digital front door strategy:
1. Digital awareness and acquisition
A successful digital front door strategy ensures that the patient knows the solution exists. The first step of implementing a digital front door strategy is engaging with consumers online before requiring care. This includes online advertising, social media, marketing outreach campaigns, and other methods of building consumer awareness of the health system. Healthcare organizations need to have a strong online presence that reinforces their reputation and their willingness to meet patients’ needs and expectations.
2. Digital search and schedule
Digital search tools allow patients to find a nearby provider that meets their criteria, whether it be a certain specialty, language, location, or availability. Patients can read reviews of a provider, their staff, or an entire facility. Once they’re ready to book, patients can use online or app-based scheduling tools to select a calendar slot that fits their busy schedules.
Digital search and schedule tools support easy rescheduling if needed and offer clear information about parking and accessibility. Other effective pre-visit tools include website chatbots, appointment reminders, and pre-visit patient check-ins. Together, these tools can reduce no- shows and allow for easy follow-up.
3. Digital on-site experience
The digital patient experience extends beyond scheduling appointments and into the actual care site. Healthcare organizations have been taking cues from how airports guide their customers through the flight experience by using mobile check-in and registration to streamline the healthcare process. Digital wayfinding, fall detection, and self-serve kiosks have also been very effective when properly implemented on-site.
4. Digital care journeys
With technology at the forefront of the patient experience, healthcare providers are adopting a digital-first approach to managing care by providing healthcare consumers or patients with access to personalized digital care journeys across various service lines such as orthopedic, maternity, cardiology, bariatric, mental health, oncology, chronic care, and more. “This digital opportunity to engage patients in their own care journey is one of those ways that we meet the promise of our commitment to partner [with patients],” explains Paige McCall, Vice President, System Service Lines, MultiCare Health System. “Shifting the focus from patient transactions to fostering true partnership with patients helps them to feel supported when they are at their most vulnerable.“
With digital care journeys, patients are no longer scrambling to find paper-based pre-operative instructions or floundering once they are discharged from the hospital. A digital care journey guarantees that a patient will be remotely monitored, supported, and better able to advocate for themselves from the start to the finish of their healthcare episode. Healthcare providers can digitally engage patients through a mobile and web-enabled virtual companion that guides them step-by-step through pre-operative, in-hospital and postoperative phases of their care journey. Patients can self-monitor via automated workflows (e.g., receive automated guidance on how to manage constipation post-surgery) and providers can get alerts and dashboards to monitor patient progress remotely (e.g., pain, vital signs, incision photos).
As digital front door strategies evolve, health systems are realizing they need a more comprehensive strategy that includes digital care journeys, thereby delivering a digital experience across the entire consumer health journey.
This article was originally published on the SeamlessMD blog and is republished here with permission.