It’s no secret that the healthcare industry has undergone an immense amount of change over the last few years as digital transformation has influenced the industry. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, digital transformation had already begun to reshape and vastly improve the patient experience with virtual visits and on-demand care slowly but surely becoming mainstream.
However, as the pandemic very quickly took its toll on healthcare organizations last year, the speed at which digital transformation was occurring increased rapidly. COVID-19 was a major wakeup call to healthcare organizations and the speed in which they adopted new technology to give patients a secure and convenient digital healthcare experience became urgent.
Although consumers are beginning to return to their daily lives outside of their homes and more businesses are reopening every day, patients have been accustomed to and will still expect the ability to receive quality virtual care for basic or routine conditions. The pandemic made it an imperative for healthcare systems to act on their digital transformation agendas but the need to supplement real-life contact with virtual care will remain long after the pandemic.
Make it Digital but Keep it Human
Just as the pandemic accentuated the need for a strong collaboration between in-person and virtual care, even more fluidity between the two mediums of care is now crucial. At the heart of any healthcare interaction is the need for a human connection. And, when it comes to digital healthcare situations, a human connection is a necessity. One of the main challenges for the virtual patient experience is keeping the human element of the interaction alive when care is provided through digital channels. Healthcare organizations should view technology as an enabling factor rather than a diminishing factor in providing an enhanced level of patient care. However, to keep the human aspect of the digital relationship alive healthcare systems must first understand the patient and employee connection points.
Fluidity is Key
Healthcare has traditionally been restricted to physical environments, like clinics or hospitals. Now, as digital experiences become a permanent part of the industry’s landscape, a new challenge exists in preserving the personal connection between the patient and the medical professional over a digital connection such as chat or video. However, when patients are dealing with more serious or severe healthcare situations, a more personal interaction outside of a chat or text option becomes necessary. This is where virtual and in-person care diverges.
Today, healthcare organizations must better understand when and where their patients prefer different modes of communication. As patients turn to digital technology to receive care from their provider on a more frequent basis, in-person and virtual care have a greater overlap, thus creating the need for the two experiences to become more fluid in nature.
The Digital Front Door
As healthcare organizations look to build a more fluid approach to blending in-person and virtual care, they should consider creating a ‘digital front door’ – a complete virtual experience that can help build upon sustained patient-provider relationships while encouraging patient-provider interactions. Creating a digital front door approach is critical in bridging the gap between in-person and virtual care.
Healthcare systems can establish a digital front door by implementing secure communications technology that provides patients with a variety of modes in which to interact with the organization. Many healthcare organizations today are deploying unified communications solutions to power their contact centers as they package together multiple channels, such as chat, SMS, audio, video, file transfer and desktop sharing, to meet increasing patient expectations for communication – all while keeping protected health information (PHI) secure. Utilizing a UC solution streamlines what is typically an arduous process for an organization to select and implement multiple digital channels from multiple technology providers. As the distinction between in-person and virtual care continues to blend, healthcare organizations must adjust their digital strategy to support various touchpoints in the patient journey to support optimal, flexible care.
This article was authored by Perry Price, CEO, Revation Systems.