The Importance of Healthcare’s Digital-First Front Door

What is the digital front door of healthcare, how can you measure digital health outcomes, and how has digital healthcare changed after COVID-19?

Leaders from Providence Health, CVS Health, and Kyruus recently joined a panel to discuss the importance of healthcare’s digital-first front door as a necessary imperative for all healthcare organizations today. What exactly is the digital front door? How are industry leaders implementing this concept? And how do we evaluate and measure the effectiveness of digital health initiatives?

Here we outline key takeaways forward-looking healthcare companies should keep in mind when considering digital health initiatives now and in the future.

What is a digital front door strategy?

A digital front door strategy is a consumer-centric, virtual approach to the first patient encounter in healthcare. Whereas healthcare’s front door used to be strictly physical—within a clinic, emergency room, pharmacy, or other brick-and-mortar location—virtual patient encounters bring the front door directly to the patient, meeting consumers where they are and allowing them to dictate how they want to receive care.

  • Making an appointment online rather than over the phone
  • Screening patients for COVID-19 infection via a chat bot
  • At-home virtual visits to triage and conduct care navigation

Amy Compton-Phillips of Providence Healthcare describes the digital front door as analogous to the Amazon Kindle. Kindle’s philosophy was to remove friction between author and reader. The digital front door concept removes friction between patient and caregiver by making the act of finding and receiving care as simple as possible.

4 digital front door principles:

  • The digital front door must meet patients and consumers where they are, rather than forcing a particular path.
  • There can be many front doors to care, both within an organization and across different types of organizations.
  • There should be no “wrong door” to care, but rather a variety of options to suit a variety of consumer needs and preferences.
  • No single organization should “own” the digital front door—whatever works best for the consumer is what’s going to move the industry forward.

How can we measure and track outcomes of digital health tools?

To evaluate the efficacy of digital front door and virtual care initiatives, we must take a customer-centric and outcomes-centric perspective. It’s a balance between asking, “How are we doing?” vs. “How are you doing?”

While the patient’s satisfaction with and perception of care is still important, understanding the health condition after treatment is critical. Sometimes the patient’s best interests can be at odds with what they are seeking, and to accurately interpret outcomes we must look at different perspectives.

Feedback loops are also important to long-term digital health program refinement. Chris Gervais of Kyruus says patient descriptions of acuity and intent can help route them through different service modalities. By mining the outcomes data over time, organizations can leverage digital and physical assets in the best way possible to improve care delivery.

How has digital health shifted after COVID-19?

Industry collaboration has been key to rapidly scale healthcare services during the pandemic. With partnerships between device makers, test companies, labs, public health departments, tech companies, hospitals, and more, nearly every healthcare sector has adopted some form of cross-industry teamwork. Firdaus Bhathena of CVS Health says it was this collaborative spirit paired with a compressed timeline that upped the game for healthcare organizations across the board to adopt consumer-centric digital solutions.

“There is no pre-COVID anymore. Digital demand and engagement may slow down, but will never go back.” - Firdaus Bhathena, Chief Digital Officer, CVS Health

Amy Compton-Philips says that technology hasn’t been the barrier to digital health adoption, it’s been patient acceptance and payment models that have hindered telehealth. Now that those barriers have fallen away and we are in the midst of a long-lasting digital health transition, we must iterate on existing virtual care experiences to make them more seamless, less fragmented, and more sustainable.

Watch the complete HLTH webinar recording of Demystifying and Democratizing the Healthcare Digital-First Front Door and find additional webinar resources here.

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