The Promise of Digital into Practical, Meaningful Results

By Sonia Singh, Senior Director, AVIA
Twitter: @HealthAVIA

What’s Behind Door #1?

Two very different answers emerge, depending on how health systems build their digital front doors

Create a consumer-grade digital experience for your patients — something that rivals the ease-of-use of Airbnb or Lyft — or risk being lapped in a race you can’t afford to lose.

This is the existential dilemma that health systems face, as they work to prepare for the rising tide of consumerism. Data supports this digital imperative. Nearly half of 18- to 29-year-olds say they don’t have a primary care physician46 percent of young people would rather have a broken bone than a broken phone … one virtual health solution reached more than 2 million consumers per month in just a little over a year after the service launched.

I could go on further, but the messages are already clear: to create relevance and growth into the next decade and beyond, healthcare providers need to be digital; they need to do it with a consumer-centered approach; they need to do it now.

To help health systems navigate this challenge successfully — and based on experience working with dozens of health systems nationwide — two best practices can help organizations translate the promise of digital into practical, meaningful results.

#1 – Keep your eyes on the biggest prizes.
Health systems that are most successful at creating digital front doors that bring ease and engagement to the consumer care journey elevate the initiative to the highest levels of strategic importance. They don’t only present what a revamped physician search tool could mean for patient services or show what the right scheduling platform could mean for patient volume.

Instead, they frame the total investment in the health system’s digital front door through the lens of issues that health system leadership teams and board members care most about: How do we drive more profitable volume of patients to the right resources? How do we reduce burden on our clinicians while still maintaining access to quality care in our communities?

These successful health systems also point to the risks incurred by standing still. For example, as patients increasingly view low acuity care as a commodity, what happens to your share of commercial patients as new alternatives emerge that offer on-demand, text-enabled access to care? What are the risks to revenue as new aggregators emerge that will own the consumer mindshare and the referral paths to care providers?

#2 – If you’re going to do it, do it right.
Even health systems that have adopted a digital-first mindset may inadvertently place themselves at a disadvantage if they don’t deploy their digital front door in a seamless, consumer-friendly way. That means offering the consumer a frictionless path from search for care through navigating to the right site of care to scheduling an appointment and all the way through convenient care access.

For example, does your “find a doctor” button guide consumers to all their available alternatives and guide them to the most suitable site of care (either virtual and physical)? Is your digital navigation set up around your internal organizational structure … or is it built around how people actually search for care?

It sounds intuitive, but focusing on consumer needs first and then aligning the technologies to address those needs is a primary determinant of digital success … and a step where many health systems fall short.

One final, bonus tip comes from a health system leader who is working on his organization’s digital front door right now. He encourages his health system peers to remain persistent in their pursuit of excellence.

In a recent discussion on consumer access, he said, “I like to use the phrase, ‘If you chase two rabbits, you catch none.’ We’re chasing a lot of things, but we’ve got to finish what we’ve started here. This is important for the patient experience. More than that, it’s essential to the future of our organization.”