“It’s a Living Thing:” The Digital Front Door and How to Make It Work for Patients

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The healthcare system, ever the laggard when it comes to effective information technology and digital adoption and utilization, was catapulted to the future and into a digital health revolution by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Health systems, physicians and providers seemingly overnight created digital health ecosystems weaving new virtual patient-care modalities into their existing systems of patient portals, online scheduling and bill pay, documentation and coding programs, physician workflow aids, and what were, for most, fledgling telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM) services.

Now health systems must make sense of it all – recently added telehealth, potentially powerful digital solutions (there are thousands to choose from), apps and innovations. Many are trying to do that from the perspective of those they serve – patients and consumers. Knowing that healthcare is not known for consumer ease, convenience and customer satisfaction, health systems are using the digital health revolution to revolutionize how consumers access, utilize and interact with the health system as well. 

It starts at the front door – the digital front door, which is actually a misnomer since the objective is not to stop with a knock at the door but to incorporate and encompass the entire patient experience and interaction with the health system in a coordinated digital macrocosm. Experts and health system leaders explain: 

“The digital front door is a strategy for engaging patients at every major touchpoint of the patient journey using technology that patients have already adopted for everyday use. A strong digital front door strategy doesn’t hinge on any single product but leverages technology to expand patient access, improve productivity, and drive higher patient satisfaction and increased revenue.” 

Relatient

When we say ‘digital front door,’ we mean the process of technological solutions working together to eliminate friction and seamlessly connect patients to the right care they need, when and where they need it… It’s a continuous health and wellness journey that will look different for every patient, based on their needs, preferences, and care goals.” 

Jose Quesada, MD, MBA,  vice president global healthcare, Salesforce. 

“The digital front door needs to do two main things: (1) anticipate and meet the needs of our patients, members, and caregivers, and (2) do this in a way that matches the best digital experiences anywhere (not just in healthcare).” 

Kevin Mabbutt, senior vice president and chief consumer officer, Intermountain Healthcare.

Mabbutt explains that Intermountain’s MyHealth+ digital front door does this by “addressing the biggest consumer pain points in healthcare” and “providing an intuitive app experience designed around the consumer and not our organizational structure.” Intermountain models its approach on the best digital experiences outside of healthcare and the platform is fluid, allowing them “to swap tools in and out as technology evolves – and to expand its scope to include wellness, patient education, remote monitoring, and a host of other tools in future. It is a living thing; we cannot stand still and declare the digital front door ‘finished.’”

Perhaps scarred by the excruciating EHR experience and given privacy and regulatory constraints, hospitals, health systems and physicians historically have only tentatively adopted digital strategies and pursued solutions designed for and around their needs and workflows. And for far too long, healthcare has expected and accepted rudimentary capability, meager deliverables, and deficient performance from IT and digital products and vendors.

Now health systems focus on two critical elements and goals: they must design digital platforms with the patient and consumer as top priority, and they must match the high standards and expectations of industries outside of healthcare. 

The journey to patient-centered care continues. 

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