As Deferred Procedures Return, Some Hospitals are Opening a ‘Digital Front Door’ | Deloitte US has been saved
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Summer Knight, MD, MBA, managing director and Emily Borlik, managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLP
As states relax restrictions that kept many people at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals and acute care facilities are scheduling postponed surgeries, diagnostic procedures, and routine services. In a new phenomenon, some patients might re-enter the health system through a digital front door.
The idea of a digital front door has been coming up more frequently as hospitals and health systems place greater emphasis on establishing and maintaining a digital connection with patients and consumers. But there is a level of murkiness when it comes to defining exactly what this term means. A digital front door doesn’t hinge on any single technology nor one type of interaction with the patient. Rather, it combines a broad range of digital features that keep patients and their care teams connected throughout the care journey. A digital front door, for example, might be used to virtually triage a patient from their home, digitally schedule services, and admit them (if needed). It might also be used for digital-health assessments, care-management adherence, medication management, finding in-network doctors, or for estimating the patient’s out-of-pocket costs. It could also help reduce the risk of infection by limiting face-to-face interactions.
The digital-front-door concept is already being used in other consumer-facing industries to create a customized experience. A hotel guest, for example, might bypass the reception desk and check in via smartphone app. That app might also be used to order room service, set a wake-up call, or arrange transportation to the airport. Increased focus on the consumer experience in travel and other sectors is helping drive hospitals and health systems to pay closer attention to the consumer experience.
As consumers have grown accustomed to digital ecosystems, they are changing the way they use services and are more likely to migrate to companies and brands they trust. Some younger consumers, for example, are choosing health care providers based primarily on their digital offerings, according to a recent NRC Health study.1 While the health sector has been slow to join the technology revolution, adoption is gaining momentum. Lessons learned from other industries are helping to guide hospital and health system leaders as they define digital experiences for their patients.
Understanding which experiences matter the most to patients can help hospital and health system leaders make more informed technology decisions that could enhance and maintain the on-going relationship with their patients. In the post-pandemic landscape, providers that meet or exceed consumer expectations could build brand loyalty, attract new patients, and generate a competitive advantage.
Three strategies to walk patients through the digital front door
A digital front door can help remove barriers and create a more seamless experience for the health care consumer. It can include everything from digitally scheduling appointments, enabling virtual interactions, and managing health. Here’s a look at three strategies hospitals and health systems should consider for launching or enhancing their digital front door:
1. Create an attractive experience
2. Establish a digital foundation
3. Redefine the consumer/patient relationship
Digital front doors should open to a seamless experience
While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused consumers to become more cautious, it has also helped many become more empowered when it comes to their health. Some consumers (and their family members) have taken a more active role in managing care via apps and websites as our colleague Steve Burrill noted in his May 28 blog. As patients return for postponed services, hospitals and health systems should focus on delivering a more engaging and interactive digital experience.
A digital front door can help hospitals and health systems enhance the patient experience across platforms and facilities and engage consumers where they live and work. There are a variety of reasons why hospitals and health systems are working to create a digital experience for consumers. A digital front door could help improve access to care, make triaging and other processes more efficient, improve health outcomes, and enhance the patient-clinician experience.
A digital front door that eliminates barriers and offers a holistic view of the consumer can be critical to driving patient loyalty and business growth while improving the overall well-being of a health system’s patient population. It also could be imperative to survival.
Acknowledgement: Jay Compton
1. Your digital front door starts well before your website, NRC Health, June 15, 2020
Summer is a managing director in Deloitte Consulting’s Life Sciences & Health Care practice, where she leads the Virtual Health Product portfolio as well as the Virtual Health Platform Enablement practice for the firm. As a physician-executive, Summer specializes in the human experience within health care, helping organizations and clients create patient-centric, consumer-oriented health care delivery systems. With a special focus on strategic growth in the evolving health care economy, business model innovation, consumer-driven product and service strategies, and digital health, Summer’s passion and priority is humanizing health care. As a paramedic-turned-physician, Summer’s perspective and knowledge in the field are informed from more than 20 years of health care experience.