In today’s healthcare economy a patient is also a consumer who has become accustomed to scheduling, shopping, researching, and buying everything from groceries to plane tickets online. Unfortunately for those who enjoy and want the convenience of online access, healthcare organizations haven’t caught up yet, according to Ginny Shipp, Product Specialist at Relatient. Companies like Relatient are helping healthcare organizations reach today’s patient/consumer through the digital front door, where patients are already interacting with other industries. These strategies increase access, engagement, and transparency so patients can proactively take charge of their health.
“Today, most of us have to wait for the literal doors to open or the phone to come on in the morning to reach our doctor,” Shipp shared. “Even to schedule an appointment, you have to hope you can find time to reach someone at the office, then wait on hold to compare calendars and book the time.
“Then, once you get there, you’re sitting in the waiting room, filling out paperwork, hoping you get called back to the doctor in a reasonable amount of time. It’s a very cumbersome, outdated, process while most of us are used to a much more convenient experience in other areas of our lives,” Shipp explained.
Shipp explained the digital front door is always open, regardless of the time of day or night. Many healthcare providers are trying to open the digital front door but aren’t looking at the whole picture. Instead, they look at problems and create “band-aid” solutions to “cure” them.
“The typical response to any kind of problem with patient flow or patient access is to ‘band aid’ it as quickly as possible. The provider chooses the technology [that] will fix that problem only, rather than a total solution that will open up these doors.”
“Now, the patient has access only to certain things, instead of a holistic experience that offers truly open communication,” Shipp explained. “It could also get complicated, because the provider may end up with a lot of vendors that don’t work in sync with one another. Or, even worse, band-aid cures from many different types of technology may cause even more work for staff and create a disjointed experience for patients.”
The holistic way to approach the digital front door is to look at all the different touch points of the patient experience, including what happens between episodes of care. Health maintenance campaigns are just as vital to helping patients take charge of their health as discharge notes and instructions are to them after an office visit.
The first entry to the digital front door for most patients, however, is signing up for the patient portal. Shipp shared that there still hasn’t been a lot of adoption for these types of portals, because many solutions are cumbersome, require a new username and password, and do not have intuitive interfaces.
Shipp stresses that the digital front door is a strategy, not a brand or single solution. It’s a new approach to engaging patients that recognizes and leverages natural habits and behaviors to move patients effectively through the patient journey.
Pricing is a good example of this.
“You would never go anywhere – a grocery store, a movie, a mall – and buy something or get a service without knowing what it’s going to cost you. But in healthcare, patients do that every day, and it can be incredibly stressful, especially for chronically ill patients.”
“Digital strategies give organizations the ability to get that information to the patient ahead of time, which also allows the organization to verify insurance benefits and estimate what the patient will owe based on their coverage and deductibles. This is how patient engagement can greatly reduce stress on both patient and practice,” Shipp said.
According to Shipp, healthcare providers who want to create a truly holistic, user-friendly digital front door for their patients should look for a technology partner that can offer the following components and ensure they work together seamlessly:
• Self-scheduling that allows patients access 24/7 so they don’t need the office to be open or somebody to answer the phone.
• E-registration, so patients can fill out paperwork prior to their appointments and save some time in the office. “This is a pivotal piece of the puzzle that could be transformative to a medical practice to have patients pre-register more successfully,” said Shipp.
• Appointment reminders are essential to reducing no show rates and helping busy patients remember their appointments.
• Digital communication is also key to communicating with patients when a doctor is running late or has to change an appointment time.
• Health maintenance campaigns so that patients don’t fall through the cracks and go without critical visits to their providers on a regular basis.
• Integrated patient satisfaction surveys that are optimized for use on a mobile device so practices can maintain real-time patient feedback, optimize the patient experience, and provide service recovery when necessary.
• Web and mobile payment options so patients make payments in the same way they make most other transactions. This also increases the payments a practice is able to collect and reduce the time it takes to collect.
The digital front door is widely discussed in healthcare today, and it will become a differentiator for organizations who want to serve their patients well and retain them.