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Creating a More Effective Digital Front Door Strategy for Your Healthcare Organization

To say that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for virtually every industry is, at this point, likely a bit of an understatement. But it’s equally safe to say that the healthcare industry is feeling this burden more than most.

COVID-19 has forced hospitals to change their thinking about nearly every aspect of their operations—and how they greet patients with an effective digital front door strategy is right at the top of that list. Gone are the days when patients could just walk in the door and ask for directions. Now, they need to wait in their car, call when they arrive and come in only when they’ve been directed. It’s an effective solution for the time being, but it does little to improve patient experiences as they attempt to get critical care.

But what if your healthcare organization could change this paradigm for them, seeing it not as a negative but as a chance to create a better experience moving forward? Keep in mind that for years, healthcare organizations have had the very same customers as retail, hospitality, entertainment and similar types of organizations but, for whatever reason, they have yet to evolve to provide a comparable experience.

Until now.

Allowing themselves to grow stagnant may have been tolerated in the past, but consumers these days are getting smart and have begun to demand more from healthcare. This may have accelerated as a result of the ongoing pandemic, but don’t make the mistake of assuming that things will “go back to the way they were” once all this is behind us.

Creating a better and more effective digital front door strategy for your healthcare organization is something that’s here to stay so you might as well start working on it. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.

Retrain Your Digital Front Door Thinking: Patients are Expecting More

As stated, people’s expectations have been changing when it comes to healthcare for years. To that end, the pandemic has been little more than an accelerant, increasing the speed at which new measures need to be implemented to evolve better patient care.

Case in point: people no longer feel that going to the doctor’s office is “something they have to do” or a “necessary evil.” Now, they perceive themselves not as patients, but as medical consumers. Because of that, they’re more often than not doing exactly what consumers do: looking for competitive pricing, prioritizing improved convenience and accessibility via technology, and are paying attention to reviews, ratings and comments on places like social media more than ever.

According to one recent study, a full 83% of patients have recently visited a hospital’s website before scheduling an appointment. Not only that, 77% of them used a search engine in order to do it—meaning that the impression you create online will absolutely translate to the volume of patients walking through your door.

This is why healthcare IT providers and a cutting-edge digital front door experience is so essential; it may very well form the basis of your own competitive advantage for years to come.

To capitalize on this, you need to begin with building the type of digital front door mobile application that people would actually want to use. A healthcare mobile app can’t just be a slightly different version of your website, or little more than a virtual business card. You should consider integrating as much of the following functionality as possible:

  • On-demand video visits with medical professionals
  • Doctor and patient communication portals
  • Navigation to and from your location, including information about parking
  • Options that facilitate easier patient check-ins
  • Libraries that are filled with digital content and other resources related to important healthcare topics
  • Easier provider search features
  • And more!

In other words, you need to create the type of resource that people actually want to go to for the help they need. If you’re able to do that, they’ll keep coming back for more, which is really what the digital front door strategy is all about.

Comport works with organizations to create mobile apps for a strategic approach, condensing all the functionality that would usually be spread out among multiple disconnected apps into a single, simple digital front door. In addition to offering integration with EHR patient portals, it also offers Google Maps and Apple Maps compatibility for turn-by-turn directions, includes patient and asset tracking, offers telemedicine features and much, much more.

People can use it to do everything from check in with their doctor without leaving their home to getting help with navigating to exactly the right place in the hospital when they do arrive.

Telemedicine: Virtual Care is No Longer a “Nice to Have”

Along the same lines, it’s also imperative to understand that telemedicine and related services are no longer recommendations—thanks in no small part to the pandemic, they’ve become a requirement.

Consider the fact that during the first quarter of 2020 alone, the total number of telehealth visits across the country literally increased by 50% year over year. A full 71% of patients say that they’ve at least considered telemedicine as an alternative to in-person care at least some point during the last year. But once you also consider the fact that about 20% of patients currently say they’d consider switching doctors if their current provider doesn’t offer telemedicine options, it’s easy to see why this is something you’re going to need to address sooner rather than later.

In addition to minimizing the overall risk to healthcare workers (especially during something like a global pandemic), telehealth saves time for providers and creates better experiences for patients. People simply don’t want to come into the office if they don’t have to any longer, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that (especially considering the insurance barriers have been removed).

Again, you need to evolve your thinking to understand that you’re not talking about “just another patient” any longer. They’re your customers, and if you can’t offer them the experiences they want, they will go somewhere else to find it.

Creating a Digital Front Door is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Overall, there are a seemingly limitless number of potential capabilities that you could choose to incorporate into your digital front door strategy, but it would be a mistake to simply “go all in” on every last one of them at the same time.

Features such as wireless access to telemedicine and digital scheduling take time to get right. Implementing all of them simultaneously could worsen the patient experience, not help it. If you throw too many options at people too quickly, they’re going to get overwhelmed and frustrated, which is the exact opposite of what you want.

This is why, when putting together your own unique digital front door strategy that is built with your healthcare organization in mind, you need to carefully work your way through tasks like:

  • Conducting a pre-implementation survey, along with extensive market research. If you don’t understand what your specific patients are looking for, you don’t really have a chance to give it to them.
  • Taking the time to learn about which specific applications your patients are using frequently, and why.
  • Developing a specific strategy for virtual care, including an emphasis on video conferencing and telemedicine options as well as the technology that allows you to deliver them efficiently.
  • Outlining your metrics for success to make sure you’re achieving the results that you’re after. You can’t improve what you’re not measuring and these metrics will help quickly illustrate what is working and, more importantly, what isn’t.
  • You also need to think carefully about which team members will need to be a part of the decision-making process to make sure that your organization is always headed in the right direction.
  • Finally, it’s essential that you take a look at your current patient portal, if you happen to have one. Are people actually using it? What do they like about it and what do they dislike? What feedback have you gotten on it since deployment?

Using this as a guideline to help you move forward will help you make smart decisions regarding your larger digital front door strategy moving forward.

Find Trusted Healthcare IT Providers to Create a Digital Front Door Strategy

In the end, you need to understand that whenever you introduce new capabilities and healthcare IT solutions that are as robust and as flexible as the ones we’re talking about, you will always need to clearly outline your goals so that you know exactly where you’re headed at all times. You don’t want to implement healthcare IT solutions simply for the sake of it. You want to do it strategically and in a way that makes the most sense for where your organization is actually headed.

Allowing patients to take control over their own healthcare experience, accessing all the services and care options they need on their own terms while having a trusted technology partner in your corner will create a strategic advantage for your business. Interested in learning more? Reach out to our VP of healthcare Geoff Bakeman to discuss your needs or sign up for an INFRAM assessment.

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