Patient engagement is a growing concern in today’s healthcare ecosystem. As many providers transitioned to telehealth during the pandemic, the concept of a “digital front door” evolved to describe how patients interact digitally with healthcare providers.
The term “digital front door” describes an omnichannel engagement strategy that leverages technology to meet the needs of modern healthcare consumers.
With many people using online searches and digital tools to find new care providers, the term describes how patients first interact with a healthcare provider online. It represents how the patient journey is changing in response to consumer needs.
Just a few years ago, the design of a medical office was considered extremely important to the patient’s experience. Focusing on the digital front door refers to creating a positive digital experience for patients navigating a healthcare provider’s website, patient portals, and other online touchpoints.
Why utilize a digital front door?
There are many reasons to optimize the digital experience. Changing consumer preferences, healthcare staffing issues, and potential cost savings are just a few reasons healthcare practices are turning to digital solutions.
According to a study from Cedar, 41% of patients reported that they would consider changing providers for a better digital experience. Younger adults are four times more likely to switch than those over 65. Making it easy for people to schedule appointments, check symptoms, and refill prescriptions online can increase patient satisfaction and retention.
In addition, the ongoing healthcare staffing shortage is making it difficult for staff to spend time engaging with patients. Implementing digital engagement tools can empower patients to take control of their healthcare tasks and relieve operational burdens on staff members.
The prevalence of electronic health records means that patients can access, read, and add to their records through a well-designed patient portal. Using online intake forms, email messaging, and surveys can streamline processes and save time and money for healthcare practices.
The Benefits of Digital Front Doors
Some of the key benefits of properly designed and implemented digital front doors include:
- Reduced patient wait times
- Ability to interact with the healthcare system outside of regular business hours
- Improved access and visibility into patient’s health records
- Less paperwork and administrative waste
- Reduced administrative costs
- Focus on providing quality care compared to administrative tasks
- Improved coordination and transparency between care teams
- Improved feedback collection processes
What types of technology are involved?
No one specific technology is required to create an effective digital front door. Instead, different technologies are combined to create a positive user experience that matches the patient journey and meets the organization’s needs. Some of the technologies typically involved include:
- Online appointment scheduling
- Physician finder tools
- Online intake forms
- Personalized and automated email communications
- Secure texting
- Patient portals
- Automated surveys
Of course, it’s not just about the technology involved but how it works together to meet the patient’s needs. Implementing tools that are difficult to use, don’t integrate, and are frustrating to patients will not deliver results.
Let’s use an example to illustrate how patients interact with a digital front door. Josh just moved to the area and is looking for a new primary care provider that accepts his insurance and is close to where he lives. He does a Google search and finds a provider with good reviews located only 0.5 miles away.
Josh goes to their website and uses a physician finder tool to search through the provider’s network of physicians to find one who accepts his insurance and is taking new patients.
Once Josh finds someone who is a good fit, he signs up to be a new patient and fills out a digital intake form. On the website’s back end, the provider automatically captures and stores these details in a secure, HIPAA-compliant database.
Josh then schedules an appointment online. He receives an automatic confirmation email, and a few days before the appointment, he also receives an email reminder.
On the day of his appointment, Josh can immediately see his physician because he has already filled out the intake forms online. The physician takes notes electronically during the appointment and refills Josh’s prescription. All this information is automatically added to his medical records. Before leaving the doctor’s office, a staff member helps Josh schedule a follow-up appointment for a few months later.
The same day, Josh receives a text message that his prescription has been filled and is ready for pickup at his local pharmacy. A week after the appointment, Josh receives an email asking about his experience and whether he has any follow-up questions for the physician. Thanks to the thoughtful use of technology, Josh was highly satisfied with his experience.
In today’s world, a solid online presence is not optional. Creating thoughtful online user experiences is essential to improving patient and provider interactions.