Blog: So, what’s a “digital front door”? And why does it matter?

With the rise of digital technology and increasing health costs, execs know they need to improve access to their healthcare and resources for patients. That’s given rise to “the digital front door” — a fluid term that’s yet to be clearly defined.

At face value, the digital front door is where and how health systems first engage with patients, assess their needs, and dictate how patients receive treatment and experience care. It is a tool that guides patients to the most appropriate care for them, and helps them to understand the health system’s offerings. Healthcare is intimidating, and for patients, the digital front door is there to hold your hand through it all.

For health systems, developing a digital front door that reaches more patients — and earlier on — has major implications in reducing individual and system-wide costs and inefficiencies, by streamlining administrative tasks like appointment scheduling and payment processing. And most importantly, this guidance and transparency give patients peace of mind, improves their treatment outcomes, and ensures the happiness of both the patients and providers.

Getting patients in + off to treatment

The moment we feel sick, we go searching for answers and seek out a path to getting well — whether that’s through a visit to the doctor or an over the counter medication that can help us feel better fast. And when we don’t know where to turn, we have a tendency to walk through the first door that’s open to us — even if it’s not necessarily the right one. The digital front door can be a critical stopgap in this cycle, effectively navigating people to the appropriate level of care, with patient triage as the critical first touchpoint.

When someone is searching for care, the digital front door serves to guide them from a hospital home page to an actionable step, such as scheduling a face to face with a provider, that gets them the help they need. In this way, a digital front door helps health systems grow their patient base, from capture to conversion, advancing simple web visits to billable appointments in-person or via telemedicine.

Even after a patient has set up an appointment, many people find sifting through medical information to be daunting. And especially when ill, most patients are not at full capacity to make what can often be complicated, important decisions about care. Health systems should aid patients in navigating the host of care options at their disposal, and alleviate the logistical gymnastics that complicate the patient experience. From curating a personalized list of providers and procedure options, to finding sites of care, to coordinating prescription pickups, systems can ensure that patients select and receive the right care at the right cost.

The repercussions for providers and the system

A digital front door creates a clear path to efficient treatment for both patients and providers. By automating many of the processes that guide patients’ first steps of care, the digital front door reduces the burden on medical staff and increases the overall efficiency of the healthcare system from the inside out.

Using technology and automated features to guide patients allows providers to focus on other, high-impact care interactions. Providers can be more informed of their patients’ needs from the start, spend less time on administrative tasks like charting and taking notes, and dedicate their time and energy in their diagnosis and care. A digital front door is a systematic way to engage with patients early, and in turn, ensure that providers are more engaged in their interactions. In a time that provider burnout is at an all-time high, this is ultimately a step toward reducing that widespread fatigue and some of the undue demand on providers’ time.

With more choices than ever, health systems need to be especially attentive and deliberate with the way they serve patients and their needs. The digital front door is one simple way to guide people to the most appropriate care for them, and most importantly, keep both patients and providers happy.

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