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Why Healthcare Organizations Must Leverage a Digital Front Door Strategy

There’s been a lot of talk about the digital front door. With the emergence of COVID-19, organizations have been forced to move quickly to a virtual care experience to preserve care access, protect their patients, sustain their workforces, and maintain revenue.

And that digital-first experience will never go away. Practitioners and patients alike have welcomed more virtual care due to its convenience and efficiency. It prevents long wait times at the clinic while allowing professionals to provide better quality care with patients.

However, many organizations are shifting back to pre-pandemic norms where care is delivered in person. In some cases, it may be clinically appropriate. In others, it’s simply the way they‘ve always done business. Organizations who rise to the challenge and meet this new demand in consumerism are paving the way to the new future of healthcare. In this post, we’ll discuss the digital front door, identify common IT applications that make up a digital front door, and offer a solution to optimize a seamless patient engagement strategy across an enterprise.

What is the Digital Front Door?

The digital front door is a tech-first strategy that enables patients to interact with every digital touchpoint, from virtual to in-person and vice versa, in the same manner they interact with companies as consumers. Quite frankly, it’s much more than a front door. Creating a digital front door is more than applying a simple patient portal or an independent app. It’s about interoperability, leveraging seamless and fluid interactions between and among patient-facing digital technology applications and person-to-person interactions to improve patient access and satisfaction. Of course, this sort of transformation also drives revenue and productivity.

The everyday use of brands like Amazon and Netflix has trained patients to expect that every transaction should resemble the type of personalization and simplicity they have using those platforms. From the first symptom-related online medical search to the ease of scheduling an appointment online, to the timing of mobile reminders and the driving directions patients receive, every digital touchpoint matters.

The tsunami of digital activity after the wake of Covid intensified a shift in patient expectations and behavior. Patients are more demanding, less forgiving, and less loyal than they once were. One negative experience with a healthcare provider may close the door forever. It’s a serious wake-up call for healthcare executives as the status quo no longer works. The healthcare industry is facing a reckoning that is forcing a significant boost in the level of customer service that they were previously reluctant to provide.

Common Components of a Digital Front Door

While the digitization of healthcare has been evolving for decades, providers are now compelled to deliver more effective digital front door strategies- whether that’s through interactive websites, chatbots, patient portals, scheduling tools, payment portals, apps and more, where every part of the patient journey can be linked together. And due to new regulations and a more competitive environment, providers are seeking to invest in smarter front door technologies that demonstrate improvement in patient outcomes and increased patient satisfaction while boosting productivity and revenues.

Website:

In building an effective digital front door strategy, it’s important to examine every aspect of the patient journey. Through various devices or channels, a new patient may conduct an online search for a local healthcare provider and land on an organization’s website, often serving as the initial point of contact. The website is a critical component of a digital front door, but often gets overlooked as other newer, flashier technologies are being introduced into the mix. Failing to recognize this key foundation could lead to massive delays and rework, causing disruption to the entire transformation process. A regularly updated, comprehensive, user-friendly website with a sleek and modern design sets the stage for an optimal customer experience.

Chatbot:

Conversational AI technology expands access to information, reduces staff workload, and increases operational efficiency with 24/7, multichannel support. Natural language processing, artificial intelligence and machine learning are optimized to elevate the user experience at scale across multiple channels. As a major potential revenue source, it allows customer service departments with limited resources to easily operate highly personalized conversations, manage variable call volumes and deliver a more meaningful customer experience.

Patient Portal:

Once a customer becomes a patient, they are often invited to establish an account on the system’s online patient portal. Through a login user ID and a password, patients enter the portal where they may view all of their medical records, send and receive messages to and from their provider, schedule appointments and even pay their bills. Patient portals vary widely in the different tools they offer, but at the very least they provide a link to their secure and private medical records and their provider. Sometimes patient portals can be accessed directly through an App downloaded onto a phone or device and other times the portal can be accessed through a link that is sent via email or through a specific digital channel. One of the most significant benefits of the patient portal is the ability for patients to become more involved in their healthcare journey for a more personalized feeling of care and a stronger connection with their care providers. However, one of the biggest challenges is patient buy-in. Security issues are an underlying concern for some but for others, the patient portal is only one part of their overall healthcare picture.

Online Scheduling:

Self-service scheduling modules, whether they are embedded in a patient portal or not, provide patients with links to book, change or cancel their appointments online without having to speak with a member of the staff. This is an incredibly convenient service that can be offered 24/7, a single standalone service that can significantly improve the patient experience.

Bill Payment Portals:

Creating this digital touchpoint not only improves the patient’s financial experience but increases the odds a healthcare organization can make patient collections.

Patient Eligibility and Insurance Benefits Tools:

These applications allow patients to learn whether or not their insurance plan will cover their visit before scheduling any services. It also tells patients what their benefits are with respect to their deductibles, copays and coinsurance and where they stand with those benefits as it relates to doing business. They may also find out if referrals, notifications or prior authorizations are needed to comply with their plan.

Symptom Checker:

This digital tool helps determine whether or not the patient needs to be seen urgently or could be scheduled for a telehealth visit via an app or the portal.

Virtual Care:

Virtual care is a broad term that encompasses all the ways healthcare providers remotely interact with their patients. In addition to treating patients via telemedicine, providers may use live video, audio, and instant messaging to communicate with their patients remotely.

Virtual Waiting Rooms:

As another benefit from social distancing measures, patients now have the ability to text or use a link to notify the office they have arrived and receive instructions from staff to check-in. Providers can also give patients alerts via text for when they may come into the building.

Price Transparency Tools:

These tools gauge the quality and cost of procedures and services. This caters to the patient’s desire to shop around as benefit designs have shifted to more out-of-pocket costs.

The digital applications mentioned above are all patient-facing solutions in which the patient has direct access through a communication channel. There are other digital solutions, however, that exist in the background that elevate the user experience of the patient-facing applications. Some of these are essential in providing the foundation for these applications and others enhance their functionalities or capabilities. Behind the scenes, these digital solutions also make up the digital front door.

Supportive framework technologies are either administrative, clinical or financial in nature and are often categorized by type. Electronic medical records (EMR) and electronic health records (EHR) began as simple solutions to document and store patients’ medical records electronically rather than on paper. Over time, these have become much more advanced as vendors have expanded or consolidated to meet customer demands. A more advanced EMR now may include electronic ordering, e-prescribing and online scheduling tools as well as a full revenue cycle management module.

Electronic ordering, e-prescribing and revenue cycle management software programs are examples of internal-facing applications that support or enable more robust digital front door technologies. Others include digital imaging platforms, clinical decision support platforms, clinical data management platforms and population health management platforms.

In reviewing the multitude of applications that encompass the digital front door, both patient-facing and supportive framework technologies, it’s obvious they bring convenience and accessibility to the patient. However, while each new digital or technology application has served a specific purpose, organizations are finding themselves overwhelmed with the sheer number of them and are faced with the fact that the applications are not integrated or packaged in a way that provides a seamless customer experience collectively. There is little or no coordination among the various digital applications, producing a monumental roadblock for value-based care delivery.

To summarize the importance of interoperability, authors of a recent Deloitte Perspective said it best, “radically interoperable data is a foundational capability required to enable the delivery of patient-facing programs and associated technologies. When implemented correctly, it can enable a whole new world of care delivery and patient empowerment. In fact, the future of health will likely be defined by radically interoperable data, open yet secure platforms, and consumer-driven care.”

How Chatbots Can Improve the Digital Front Door

Carefully deployed enterprise-wide conversational AI chatbots can become the lifeline in delivering exceptional patient experiences for businesses in the healthcare industry.

Chatbots enhance and automate customer service and business operations, improve the patient’s experience at every point of their journey, and streamline marketing and communication to patients, employees, and the surrounding community.

This enables you to expand access to information, reduce staff workloads, and increase operational efficiency by providing 24/7, on-demand multichannel support. Chatbots can be trained to disseminate information such as locations, costs, and services offered, and can also connect patients to hospital resources, such as the patient portal, follow-up care videos or counseling services.

Healthcare organizations are faced today with many challenges, issues, and opportunities including:

  • Increasing costs and limited transparency into pricing
  • Less-than-optimal consumer experience
  • Delivery system transformation
  • Limited output of data and analytics from legacy systems
  • Hard-to-find access to points of care


Those organizations that are embracing a chatbot as a key solution are seeing tremendous cost savings and revenue generation. In other industries, we’re seeing that consumers do not care whether a chatbot or a human agent helps them, as long as they receive the help they need. Chatbots can create significant cost savings while helping businesses save on customer service costs.

The digital front door isn’t going away. In fact, it’s opening into other areas of your organization. While implementing a digital front door might seem like an overwhelming task, know that there are a variety of strategies to help you stay in line with the latest trends.