Though constantly evolving, hospitals and care providers can be rather averse to new tech adoption. 2020, however, has shown many that change is a necessity as the status quo between provider and patient has been irrevocably altered. 

One of the changes embraced en-masse has been the inclusion of telehealth technology and appointments. With social distancing being the norm today and likely in the future, care facilities have been rather receptive to hardware such as medical tablets and other portable workstation solutions capable of meeting patient needs while also keeping a safe distance.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been some growing pains in sudden adoption of new, digitized care practices. Many providers entering the telehealth arena are realizing it’s not enough to simply provide telehealth hardware, consideration needs to be made for every instance of digital interaction with a patient, not just appointments. This focus on enhancing all of the digital points of interaction with a patient that take place before, during, and after an appointment in a care facility has been referred to as a digital front door healthcare strategy.   

The Importance of a Digital Front Door Strategy

The appeal of a digital front door healthcare strategy comes from being able to interact with patients and address reservations/concerns well before an appointment is held. This kind of outreach has become much more essential in the current day where patient appointment cancellation rates are skyrocketing due to fear of COVID infection. 

Now, more than ever before, it’s become essential to talk to and inform patients, address concerns, and calm fears. All of this goes towards helping patients feel confident and safe in keeping their appointments. A digital front door strategy achieves this by optimizing all instances of remote patient outreach.

The benefits of this sort of communication and messaging for patients has legs for a time well after COVID as well. Transparency with patients and messaging that encourages them to stay on top of their health will encourage higher appointment retention rates, improved patient outcomes, lowered patient readmission rates, and a myriad of other benefits.

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

A digital front door strategy is a multi-faceted approach to reaching out to patients- It’s not strictly limited to patient-physician interaction. Every moment your facility as a whole engages with a patient, from before the patient has even made an appointment to after treatment is complete, is involved in a digital front door healthcare plan. Thus, there are a few key instances of patient outreach that need to be given fair attention to in order to truly optimize a patient’s digital interactions with your care facility.   

Website

Your facility’s website is, more often than not, one of the first means of exposure to your staff many patients have. For this reason, many providers have started to realize that their facility websites are powerful tools for educating patients before they set an appointment. 

Infection fears aside, patients have a general fear of doctors and appointments as a whole. According to WebMD, 20% of the population suffers from this fear, often referred to as “white coat syndrome”. And these fears have only been compounded with recent worries of infection. People fear the unknown, they fear getting sick, they fear hearing bad news; But, all instances of irrational fear like this provide an opportunity to educate. And your facility website can be irreplaceable as an education tool for patients looking to address their fears.

Consider utilizing your facility’s website to inform prospective patients on updates made to your care and operational policies. Reading about these new policies and why they’re being incorporated can be very consoling for the average patient who fears coming in to treat their condition.

Blogs can also be a powerful tool to host on your website as they can be a wonderful forum for addressing common fears and concerns that impact your patient-base. Perhaps you realize a lot of patients in your population require a certain surgery. That could be a great topic for a blog on your site that explains the process of the procedure, its benefits, and even the low likelihood of risk to the patient. Having this information, could be what pushes a patient to feel confident enough to set that long avoided appointment and, better yet, set it with your facility.

Telehealth Capabilities

Of course, a digital front door healthcare strategy requires proper telehealth programs to ensure patients can actually speak with a physician after setting an appointment. 2020 has proven to be the year of telehealth and you’ve probably heard about how beneficial the program can be ad-nauseum, lord knows we’ve discussed the benefits of telehealth technology multiple times ourselves. That said, appointments in themselves are instances of interaction with a patient that can be optimized. The easier you can come into contact with a patient remotely, quell their concerns, and inform them, the better. And in order to optimize in that way, the right hardware and policies are necessary. 

Highly portable workstations such as a medical cart computer or a medical grade tablet can make telehealth appointments much more convenient by allowing you to quickly transport staff workstations to secluded rooms where patients feel more comfortable sharing sensitive information. 

Patient Education Tools

Patient satisfaction is more than simply providing positive outcomes. In today’s healthcare industry, patients want to play an involved, active role in how their care is run. It’s no longer enough to simply follow doctor’s orders- a mutual understanding between staff and patients about treatments and why they’re being performed improves retention and adherence. And with a digital front door healthcare strategy, opportunities to educate patients and create this mutual understanding abound. 

Patient education materials have undergone a recent revamping across many facilities as they begin to adapt to the more involved patient. We’ve even discussed in a previous post the best practices for creating effective patient education materials

Once you have what you feel to be a valuable, educational resource for your patients, you can disperse it remotely through a number of digital avenues. If you have your patient’s email or phone number, that can allow for you to send the resource straight to a device they check daily. You can even share these resources through patient portal apps or, if they’re more general in nature and not custom to each patient, they can even be posted on your site as a downloadable PDF. Again, the more opportunities a patient has to interact, communicate, and learn from your facility, the better. 

Patient Portal

The patient portal is, or at least should be, an invaluable resource for your staff and patients. This should be where your patients go if they have any questions or concerns that are more specific to their particular health. We’ve always emphasized the importance of patient portal messaging as one of many must-have patient engagement strategies and this still holds true in regards to a digital front door strategy. 

Patients appreciate being able to reach out to their physicians and building out a relationship with them. Not only does this help console them and their fears, HIPAA-authorized messaging across the patient portal has also proven to be an amazing tool towards an effective remote patient monitoring program. In conjunction with patient wearables, these messaging solutions can be used to seamlessly keep physicians up to date on patient vitals and symptoms post-treatment, opening up just one more touch point for communication between your concerned patient-base and your staff.

A Digital Front Door Healthcare Strategy Consoles Patients

Like we emphasized above, a digital front door healthcare strategy isn’t just about telehealth and remote appointments. What the recent state of the world has shown us is just how potent remote communication and interaction can be between provider and patient. As more and more means of communicating with patients become available, providers are beginning to understand how efforts made to address patients before they even require a visit can improve appointment retention, patient outcomes, readmission rates, and so much more. For more information on how your facility can get started with a digital front door strategy, contact an expert from Cybernet today.