by Margaret Brown


Today’s consumers have embraced online access to products and services. From managing their bank account to ordering groceries online, consumers now expect to be able to access what they want, when they want it, online. And these expectations are presenting some challenges for healthcare providers.

How Tahoe Forest Hospital District is Opening the Digital Front Door

According to Jake Dorst, Chief Information and Innovation Officer for Tahoe Forest Hospital District, healthcare organizations must pay attention to this shift and adapt to keep pace with expectations. “Patients expect to be able to access their medical information online via patient portals or be able to set appointments online. If your competition is offering these services, people are willing to drive the extra time or go further away for those online conveniences,” Dorst explained. “Our job in IT will be building the ‘digital front door’ to care, and it’s starting to force a change in how healthcare organizations approach patient interactions.”

One way Tahoe Forest Hospital District is meeting this need is by moving beyond the patient portal and creating a much more robust access center for patients. Here, patients have the easy-to-use tools they need to schedule appointments with their Primary Care Physician or a number of specialists, request an X-ray or diagnostic image, request prescription refills or a call-back from the nurse. And, while many patients still prefer to call into healthcare organizations, Dorst predicts this will change quickly, so healthcare organizations must be prepared.

Cloud Holds the Key to Enabling Patient Access

In the past healthcare organizations wanted their technology on-premise where its maintenance and security were under their control. But as technology has evolved and as the cloud has become more prevalent in healthcare the need to keep things on-prem and in-house has diminished. Which has delivered some significant benefits to all healthcare organizations, but particularly smaller systems.

“Cloud has leveled the playing field and truly democratized IT,” shared Jeff Lowe, Business Development Manager, Microsoft Azure at NetApp. “Cloud technology has given smaller hospitals the opportunity to buy solutions that they previously could not have afforded, because it can be purchased as-a-service,” he said.

For Dorst this means that he doesn’t have to hire in-house expertise to maintain infrastructure, “Working with a trusted partner, like NetApp, enables me to lower my overall operating expenses and be better prepared because I have access to the experts who work on this technology full-time.”

And when you’re opening the digital front door, a consistently good experience for the patient as they interact with the portal or other gateway is extremely important. “You should strive to deliver a seamless experience for the patient and be able to rectify and understand any bad experiences quickly, said Dorst.  “Because we have a trusted cloud partner, I know that I have the foundation to deliver a reliable and secure experience for patients, I have access to understand what is happening in my system, and I have deep bench of experts ready to help my team.”


Regardless of where a healthcare organization is in its, Dorst said it’s important to remember that the transformation to digital services is not an IT project. Rather it’s a “whole hospital” project, because it involves every department in the facility.

“This transformation is going to affect physicians, your clinical staff, your front-line staff, your finance team; no group within the hospital is immune to the changes that come with opening the digital front door,” he shared. “Your first step is to get buy-in, not just from upper management but from all stakeholders. You really don’t want to take this transformation on as an IT project and try to force change. Nobody likes change that’s forced on them, but when everyone is invested in the project, you’ve got the support and resources you need to succeed.”

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