2020 has shown many in healthcare that the status quo between provider and patient has been irrevocably altered. The rise in chronic illness cases, the increase in the Baby Boomer population, and the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed many organizations to rethink patient care. New challenges on the horizon like the shortage of primary doctors are also putting immense pressure on providers. 

The rapid rise of telehealth technology and appointments is one such fallout from this disruption. However, many providers realize this is not enough. Consideration now needs to be made every time the patient interacts digitally with healthcare. Called “digital access points,” these interactions with patients ﹘ before, during, and after an appointment ﹘ have been collectively referred to as a “digital front door healthcare strategy.”

What Outreach is Included in a Digital Front Door Healthcare Strategy?

Before we continue, let us define what exactly is a “digital front door strategy.” In brief, it is a multi-faceted approach to reaching out to patients: Hours of operation, staff bios, scheduling process, after-visit questionnaires; all these and more are part of a digital front door strategy. 

“A digital front door is anything but a front door,” Mutaz Shegewi, IDC Health Insights research director, said in an interview on digital front doors. “It’s much more than that. It’s a technology vehicle. It’s a fabric. It’s a layer that spans from and that scales that digital and virtual care journey to meet the patient where they are.”

The Importance of a Digital Front Door Healthcare Strategy

Most people only see a doctor when something is wrong. Unsurprisingly, they are under stress when making that first call to the doctor’s office. There is no guarantee they will make the appointment, though. Fear of COVID infection alone has led to skyrocketing numbers in patient appointment cancellation

Healthcare organizations should then be looking for ways to minimize this stress. Staff members from clinicians, RNs, to web-designers should try to put themselves in their patients’ shoes. That way, any reservations and/or concerns could be potentially anticipated and dealt with well before an appointment is even scheduled. Every digital access point, from covering payment plans to encouraging patients’ health regimens via text messages, should be scrutinized with the query, “will this stress patients?”. Your digital front door, ultimately, not only keeps your current patients loyal but offers new means to attracting new ones. 

This blog addresses four access points to truly optimize a patient’s digital interactions with your care facility:

  • Website
  • Telehealth capabilities 
  • Patient education tools 
  • Patient portal

Website: First Friendly Face of Your Healthcare Group 

Many patients have a general fear of doctors as a whole. According to WebMD, 20 percent of the population suffers what is often referred to as white coat syndrome. People fear the unknown; they fear getting sick; and they fear hearing bad news. These fears have been compounded with recent worries of infection by COVID-19.

So your healthcare group’s website can be irreplaceable as a tool to allay these fears. Your website is, more often than not, the first time many patients have heard about your group. For this reason, it is important to be up to date as possible. This is especially true for your homepage information, care, and operational policies. Such details can be very soothing for the average patient who fears coming in to treat their condition.

Blogs are another part of your digital front door healthcare strategy. Their posts can be a deciding factor a patient needs to feel confident enough to set up that long-avoided appointment. Perhaps you realize a lot of patients in your population require a certain surgery. That could be a great topic for a blog post which can cover the process of the procedure, its benefits, and even the low likelihood of risk. 

Telehealth Capabilities: Reassurance from a Distance

The use of telehealth as an access point continues even if the patient is in your facilities. Let’s say the patient needs to speak with a specialist who is off-site. Thanks to telehealth technology, highly portable workstations such as a medical cart computer or a medical grade tablet can make such a virtual meeting a breeze. These workstations can also be used where patients feel more comfortable sharing sensitive information.

Example: A patient with deep concerns about COVID-19 has just been diagnosed as a diabetic. They refuse to return to the clinic for a follow-up due to the possibility of infection. Thanks to telehealth, they can get a full year of care from the doctor – quarterly A1C checkups, nutrition counseling, even eye and foot exams. 

Patient Education Tools: Knowledge Drives Unknown Away

Patients in today’s healthcare industry want to play an involved, active role in managing their care. They are just not satisfied with simply a positive outcome of their issue. Many facilities have had to adapt to this more involved patient. And with good reason: a mutual understanding between healthcare providers and patients improves retention and adherence.

Patient education materials are a great way to involve patients. We have discussed creating effective patient education materials in the past. Once you have such resources available, they can be distributed through a number of digital avenues. Materials covering, let’s say, how to have a smooth and healthy pregnancy, can be sent to your patients’ email addresses or phone numbers. Other materials that are more general in nature can be posted on your site as a downloadable PDF. All these and more give opportunities for a patient to interact, communicate, and learn about your group. 

Patient Portal: All Access Medicine 24/7

The patient portal is, or at least should be, where your patients go if they have any questions or concerns that are more specific to their particular health. Patients appreciate being able to reach out to their physicians through messaging solutions like email.

Note that portals and other patient engagement strategies are just not one way as they benefit providers as well. Portals have been proven to be an amazing tool towards an effective remote patient monitoring program. Physicians can now keep up to date on their patients thanks to data sent via wearables.

A Digital Front Door Healthcare Strategy Consoles Patients

Digital front door healthcare strategy isn’t just about telehealth and remote appointments. The recent state of the world has shown providers that they need to step up in optimizing the patient experience at their facilities. This in turn improves appointment retention, patient outcomes, readmission rates, and more.

If you’re interested in starting a digital front door strategy for your healthcare organization, contact an expert from Cybernet today.