It’s challenging to switch to caring for your patients without all the face-to-face cues, familiar routines and procedures. For patients used to in-person care, finding the surgery door suddenly closed could seem terrifying. But as one door remains shut, another opens, and behind it lies the opportunity to unlock the power of connected healthcare.
What is a digital front door?
It’s actually less of a door and more of a journey: the term ‘digital front door’ has come to represent the continuum of all the ways patients and their caregivers can digitally interact with each other. It’s a strategy about how to engage patients at every major touchpoint of this patient journey using technology, in order to give better and faster care, while lowering costs.
The growing importance of digital front doors
Many might give credit to the Covid-19 for increasing the demand of patients to receive ‘digital- first’ healthcare and while it’s true it had a very strong impact, it is hardly the only reason.
In recent years, chronic illnesses have significantly increased, while the population in underdeveloped and developed countries continues aging. At the same time, more and more countries are expecting to experience even bigger healthcare staff shortages, from ICU doctors to in-home health aids, nursing assistants and medical lab technicians. This means that healthcare providers should devise new strategies to mitigate those shortages, in order to meet current and future population demands.
Consumers’ perspectives on how to use digital tools have also shifted within the last decade. Shopping on Amazon, the most trivial thing one does online, gives us a certain idea of convenience that we tend to expect elsewhere too. Whether it’s about ordering a taxi online, or booking a flight, as a culture we are used to using digital tools to our best advantage. Recent research shows that younger generations are more likely to choose medical providers with strong digital capabilities, such as online access to test results, electronic prescription refills, and online scheduling.
Going beyond self-scheduling
But It’s important to note that a digital front door means more than simply enabling self-scheduling for patients. The patient self-scheduling might be the threshold for entering the digital front door, but what happens once you walk through the entrance? Healthcare providers need to think instead about the entire experience of patients and clinical care teams using technology to create a better working environment for both. So let’s look at some benefits of using the digital front door.
Where digital front doors can lead
#1 Direct patients the right way
When presented with a health problem, patients don’t always have the necessary means to find the most optimal care. Many times, a patient would visit the emergency department, when a specialised doctor or primary physician could be of better help. When patients with low-acuity emergencies enter the ER or A&E, this results in increased healthcare costs for the healthcare institution and longer wait times for those who really need urgent care.
With the help of a digital front door, patients can be better directed to the most appropriate level or type of care, making it easier and faster for them to receive help, while also opening up space in emergency wards for the highest priority patients.
#2 Engage with patients virtually
Any digital front door should enable both sides to interact with each other through digital communication tools. In healthcare, this type of communication is essential for patients who need continuous care due to chronic illnesses, or simply have follow-up questions that need to be answered by a physician. Routing this sort of communication through mobile devices can save both patients and doctors time, travel costs and other resources and increase care satisfaction.
#3 Monitor patients’ health remotely
Going further along the digital hallway, new developments in wearable and mobile devices can track patients' health indicators such as heart rate, blood oxygen, glucose and more 24/7, making patients themselves much more aware of their own health status. Additionally, such apps can send real-time information to doctors and alert him/her in case of abnormalities, minimising the risk of going to the doctor's office too late. One such example is the MySugr app, which can be connected to wearable devices to give better insights and recommendations to diabetes patients about their insulin levels.
#4 Achieve better care continuity
By definition, continuity of care strives to bring high-quality, cost-effective medical care for both patients and physicians over time. Health management is more than simply fixing an issue once it comes up, but it’s rather more about the seamless integration and coordination of different parties that are included in a patient’s care. And through digital tools, healthcare management can be made easy, as healthcare providers and patients could have the necessary information, such as pre-existing conditions, prior illnesses and treatments and current information stored in the same place. Combined with the ease of access to primary care, and remote monitoring, the benefits of the digital front door can be maximised to save resources and optimise physicians’ care efforts.
To sum up
It's clear that entering the digital front door is no longer an option for would-be leaders in the healthcare industry – it should be an integral part of every provider’s long term strategy. Rather than simply providing more digital access points, healthcare providers must look for cohesive, well-orchestrated and consumer-centric digital journeys for patients.
Want to know more? When we work with you, we can help you research and identify the most important touchpoints along your patients’ digital journey during our Discovery stage, taking time to map out optimum user flows based not just on what’s always been done, but on how your patients can get the best care going forward. Then, we move to rapid ideation and a user-focused UX design, until we find the ideal solution for your organisation’s complex needs. . Finally, we can develop and deliver your platform, allowing you to throw open your digital front door and welcome patients with an unsurpassed quality of care.
Get in touch with us to start the conversation - our door’s open.