Is Your Digital Front Door Wide Open or Slammed Shut?

What’s working, what isn’t, and what steps providers and their technology partners must take to open complete patient digital access

Healthcare has celebrated the “digital front door” as the technology path to unlock friendly, simple online tools for consumers to plan and manage their healthcare journeys. (And providers are celebrating to the tune of a record $1.9 billion investment in 2021.)

The digital front door advances the hope for patients to get the broader care access points they need. 

So how open is that digital front door today?

Like most things in healthcare technology, even the pros can’t always agree on what the digital front door is and what it means. But providers and their technology partners are learning fast and looking for the best digital access options.

Let’s take a look at why the digital front door matters and how it is currently helping (or frustrating) healthcare providers and patients. We’ll also share the things healthcare providers and their technology partners must consider to build and connect their front doors the right way. 

Why Does the Digital Front Door in Healthcare Matter?

Medical technology and mobile device concept symbolizing SMART on FHIR apps

First, let’s define the digital front door (which isn’t always easy amid varying interpretations).

This article from Patient Engagement HIT provides an excellent, concise definition:

“The digital front door refers to the virtual means by which a patient engages with her healthcare provider.”

(The entire article explains the digital front door using effective plain language.)

That clarifies a couple of clear benefits of the digital front door for improved patient care and patient experience:

  • Patient engagement: Patients have any-time access and self-service convenience, encouraging them to actively manage their own care and interact with their doctors.
  • Caregiver productivity and patient focus: Digital front door automation replaces low-return manual work and helps care staff be more responsive, productive, and patient-focused. Simplifying task flow brings consistency to the experience for patients and providers.

We can best understand the value by looking at a patient journey elevated by a well-designed digital front door.

A Digital Day in the Life for a Patient and Provider

Doctor and patient engaging by putting hands together to create a heart

Consider a day in the life of a patient with an evolved digital front door, exceptional information access, and easy health management tools:

Patient Research and Engagement

  • A patient has recently started having blinding headaches.
  • The patient has looked up his symptoms using a symptom tracker app their primary care provider recently launched.
  • Recognizing that the headaches could be a sign of something serious, the patient quickly and easily schedules a virtual appointment using the physician’s online portal.
  • Before the patient consultation, the portal uses an AI interactive chat to complete registration and provide pre-visit instructions, as well as an estimate of the cost.

Patient Healthcare Services

  • The patient registers and checks in remotely online for a telehealth visit and proceeds to the virtual waiting room.
  • The doctor evaluates the patient’s symptoms via video and using vitals data available from a remote patient monitoring device.
  • The provider completes the clinical documentation and recommends a CT scan.
  • The patient logs into the services scheduling app on his phone and schedules the scan.
  • The doctor gets results, and his office sends an automated text asking the patient to login to his patient page, where he gets a secure message with the great news that he is tumor-free.
  • The doctor in a follow-up visit confirms a diagnosis of migraine headaches. 

Follow Up on the Care Plan

  • The patient receives automated care plan instructions online and in his secure phone app.
  • The patient learns more about how to anticipate and alleviate migraine incidents on the physician’s website and through automated text and email guidance.
  • The patient gets updates by text and email to remind him about follow-up care, appointments, and medications. 
  • Remote devices help track the patient’s adherence to personalized care plans.

Healthcare Provider Perspectives on the Digital Front Door

Doctor and patient dialog. Consulting about medical health services.

As the KLAS data on the right shows, healthcare providers are gaining an understanding and optimism about the promise of the digital front door. (And we already noted that they are spending a lot on solutions.)

But providers that are not yet set on their digital front door strategies feel anxiety. Here’s a prominent doctor’s quote from a recent HIMMS conference:

“Everybody who is not investing in a digital front door right now, or in the tools that will be covering experience from the patient side and the clinician side, are potentially creating a lot of friction for the future,” said Yauheni Solad, M.D., medical director of digital health and telemedicine at Yale New Haven Health.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also amplified the focus on no-touch digital patient access. 

Some providers are ahead of the digital front door curve, such as MedStar and Piedmont Healthcare. But most providers clearly will benefit from strategy and technology partners that can confidently help them understand and develop effective front door solutions.

Patient Perspectives On Digital Healthcare Experiences

Consumers and patients are finding their way to the door. IDC predicts that 65 percent of patients will access care through the digital front door by 2023. 

But as often happens in healthcare, technology advances can outpace patient demand and understanding. And sometimes the genius of the technology overlooks the actual end-user experience. Here’s a great example:

The bigger issue comes when different healthcare organizations (say a payer and provider) lay claim to the same patient event with their digital tools.

“A patient gets a bunch of texts from different programs within Ascension, then you have a payer saying, ‘We have virtual primary care services that are available and we’re your digital front door.’ Then you have these startups and asynchronous telehealth platforms and they’re the digital front door, and now they’re trying to spin up new use cases for patients,” said Tania Elliott, M.D., chief medical officer of virtual care, clinical and network services at Ascension Health. “We need to all come together and figure out who’s in what lane, because it’s a little bit of the Wild West.”

Where to Go with Your Digital Front Door Strategy?

For providers and their technology partners, one principle should guide digital front-door strategy: Simplify the complicated stuff for consumers and patients.

  • Let patients and providers communicate, get accurate information, and coordinate care with ease, from as many places as possible, at every stage of the care journey.
  • Adopt a secure platform that can continuously add ways for patients to engage with providers.
  • Provide easy access and an interface and workflow that makes sense to patients. 

Don’t Go it Alone. KMS Healthcare is Your Digital Front Door Guide

Businessman hand touching icon healthcare medical,

As with all healthcare technologies, we must navigate both the promise and the practical. These solutions are only as good as how they help providers deliver the best patient care at the lowest costs. 

Most importantly, you and your technology teams must understand and incorporate all of the technologies that will make a digital front door successful: 

  • Interoperability through FHIR, HL7, and other technologies to get all of the right patient information from the right places in the hands of patients and doctors across all digital channels.
  • Mobile apps wired into EHRs (often through SMART on FHIR) to give patients their personal health records at their fingertips.
  • AI to make immediate smart sense of what data matters and where it needs to be.
  • Assured, layered security to protect private health information and give providers and patient peace of mind.
  • Remote and IoMT devices that give power to patients and feed accurate, live health information across all digital front door channels.

There’s no single, magic button technology to get there. The digital front door is more of a concept for patient access than it is a specific technology. Count on KMS Healthcare to guide you and your provider partners to develop the smartest, most effective, connected, fast, and secure patient access solutions.

Exceed patient expectations through digital experiences with help from KMS Healthcare Learn more today.

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