The idea of a digital front door in healthcare isn’t a new concept. Marketers and healthcare professionals alike know the need for an integrated digital journey. A journey that engages and empowers patients across all digital touchpoints. However, the need for action is now. In the current atmosphere of COVID-19, digital touchpoints will continue to gain importance throughout our lives. There are huge opportunities for the healthcare industry to invest in improving their digital front doors in order to help patients access healthcare services. Post COVID-19, there will continue to be a shift from “sick care” to holistic “health care.” This concept is important no matter the size of the healthcare system, whether a large hospital system, a specialty group, an urgent care or even a retail healthcare company such as CVS, Walgreens or Walmart. Although it comes by a different name, the concept of a digital front door is the same idea of digital transformation that other industries have been adapting to for years. At Bottle Rocket, we help companies along their digital transformation journey and we call this movement the Connected Lifestyle. The Connected Lifestyle is how we do everything. It’s how we deposit our checks, order dinner, hail an Uber and interact with our friends and coworkers. It’s how we buy movie tickets, how we shop for groceries and how we check in for a flight. And in today’s digital world, in the era of the novel Coronavirus, it should be how we manage our health and wellness.


HEALTHCARE IN THE AGE OF CONSUMERISM

The time to reimagine and create your company’s future is now. Your competitors are already thinking in this way. COVID-19 is accelerating change and there will be a new normal once the pandemic subsides.

Right now, healthcare companies are rapidly adjusting how people access primary and specialty care. And this need, and preference for many, will not shift post COVID-19. The future will look different no matter what industry you are in. People will travel less, work from home more, shop for groceries online and continue to access their healthcare virtually.

These changes were set into motion before COVID-19. Customers today want immediate fulfillment of their wants and needs. Some call it the Amazon effect, but we just call it the natural evolution of customers. Once customers experience immediate gratification, as well as easy and simple interactions with companies, it becomes their expectation in all aspects of their life. COVID-19 is amplifying this new normal. This shift is driven in large part by large technology companies and innovative brands that have been providing these simple, seamless and frictionless experiences for years. But at Bottle Rocket, we believe there is one key difference within these customers when it comes to healthcare, they actually want to maintain some level of human interaction with their healthcare providers. Being able to strike the correct balance of human interaction and digital ease will prove to be the opportunity of a lifetime for many brands.


NOW VS. THE FUTURE

You might be asking yourself “what is Bottle Rocket telling their current clients within the healthcare space?” We remind them that together we must find a way to achieve this aforementioned balance. And we’re also encouraging them that despite living in unprecedented times, customers’ expectations when we emerge on the other side of this crisis, will only be intensified. For healthcare companies, it all begins with the patient journey, so that’s where we start our conversations with our clients.

By taking a deep dive into the journey a patient takes with your organization, it’s likely that key touchpoints and even “friction points” will be illuminated rather quickly. How can customers interact with your company? How can they quickly “get in and get out” to achieve their desired goal? What are you not offering patients right now that your competitors are? What are they key pain points that patients report when asked? How can your brand mobilize and digitize your healthcare experience to remove friction and increase customer-centricity? In many situations, technology is the answer, but there will be instances that require the human touch for best results. Successful companies will be ones that are able to strike the right balance throughout the journey.

Think about what your business can and should do to serve patients before, during and after their visits. In the time of COVID-19, these things might be different than in “normal” times, but what can be guaranteed is whatever you choose to implement currently to serve your customers will continue to be leveraged long after the crisis subsides.

Consider the typical patient journey. As patients move from discovery and consideration to selection, loyalty and advocacy phases of the journey, is your business able to support them throughout this entire process? Are you creating means to improve patient health, reach more customers and create barriers to competitors? Are you paying attention to patients’ needs during the visit, as well as pre- and post-visit? These questions will not only be important in current times, but also drive the long-term success for your business.


WHAT SHOULD I DO?

We challenge our clients to think of their users as customers as well as patients. Additionally, we challenge them to think about the impact of COVID-19 and how it has propelled us immediately into the future. The silver lining of this pandemic is that it’s forcing all businesses to think about what’s next. It’s forcing us to quickly adapt and find ways to meet our patients, or customers, where they are. It’s forcing us to be nimble and resilient and to prioritize differently.

One recommendation we often give our clients, regardless of the current climate, is to create a cross-functional team of experts that can offer requisite variety opinions, perspectives and insights to solve daily business challenges. An impactful a team should span design, research, clinical, product, technology and operations. This team will all work together in prioritizing different initiatives related to how customer/patient behavior is changing daily and how providers are seeking to deliver healthcare. We believe the opportunity to act is now, there is a huge opportunity for all health systems to quickly adapt, especially those that over index for general services. Other segments such as specialty services and the “retail” side of healthcare such as Walgreens Boots Alliance and even Walmart will also prove to have large opportunities for a cross-functional team-based approach.

We believe there are three key things you should do right now:

  1. Prioritize and create an end-to-end COVID-19 digital care journey for your patients.
  2. Rapidly enhance your ambulatory virtual care capabilities.
  3. Develop end-to-end remote consultation opportunities that will enable providers to help patients and staff in quarantined rooms.

Continuous development and a reprioritization of your existing initiatives will be key to surviving this crisis. The initiatives that you put in place now as a healthcare provider will only continue to benefit your business and your customers/patients on the backside of the pandemic. This is how your patients MUST interact with your brand now, but this will be the way they WANT to interact with you in the future. The way that your company reacts during ultimate times of need will be the new standard that people expect forever.


HOW TO GET STARTED

If reading this helped spark the desire to take drive positive change and take action, then we recommend starting small. Pick one constituent – patient or provider – and solve one unmet need using a cross-functional team. By starting small, you will quickly “chalk up a win” and ignite the belief in your organization that change is possible quickly. If you need support, then please feel free to contact our organization. We have been focused on the intersection of physical and digital for over a decade and have been privileged to help many of the world’s most distinguished brands make leaps ahead of their competitors. We would be happy to help you take the first step for “free and for fun” because the future is here now, and we need to make the world a better place.

This article was originally published in Health Technology Net & IT Business Net