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Opening the ‘digital front door’ to enhanced patient experiences in the post-pandemic era

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The realities of the Coronavirus pandemic have reinforced the power of digital platforms in communicating and guiding healthcare. Throughout the crisis, online visits, remote monitoring, and patient engagement tools have effectively reduced foot traffic at clinics and delivered a large portion of office visits virtually. Customers, now wholly accustomed to getting what they need, when they need it, are driving the healthcare agenda and the shift in how providers interact with them. Telehealth services in the U.S. are now projected to show staggering seven-fold growth in the next five years , and are set to become the most available source of healthcare. Pressure is mounting for providers to expand their use of the technologies to remain relevant to their hyper-connected audience – the solution being the development of an effective ‘digital front door’ strategy.

The digital front door is a strategy built to engage patients before, during, and long after an appointment takes place. By allowing patients easy access to every touchpoint of their journey, including mobile scheduling, check-ins, and payments, providers are creating a holistic digital experience and returning control over their own healthcare to patients. With the adoption of single-use patient portals remaining low – averaging less than 35 percent – the digital front door presents a valuable opportunity to providers to reach out to their patients using a blend of technologies already being used in their day-to-day lives.

Long after this health crisis, the patient experience and seamless access to care will remain critical to patient acquisition, retention, and long-term revenue.

Digital is a must for healthcare
HCOs no longer have the luxury of shunning digital platforms. Patients are now demanding that their providers keep up with the shift towards digital transformation, with over three quarters of patients believing the ability to book, cancel, or change an appointment online is important . In order for these organizations to engage and deepen their relationship with patients, they must undergo change and deploy an effective end-to-end digital front door strategy. This strategy must include the following four features:

  • Access: increased access through connected devices, communications, telehealth, and remote monitoring
  • Experience: frictionless patient journeys leading to increased acquisition, conversion, engagement, and retention
  • Efficiency: digital self-care and self-service increase patient satisfaction levels, while reducing operation support costs for messaging, scheduling, billing inquiry, etc.
  • Integration: a single view and seamless experience across multiple service providers

Health providers not only have a huge opportunity to acquire and retain customers. It’s also possible to enhance the current provision of care, and grow revenues through the power of positive experiences. However, these experiences must be well thought-out and easy to navigate to result in more meaningful connections with patients. According to Forrester , despite many healthcare organizations investing in digital front door strategies and experiences, many are failing to create a lasting connection with their patients. In order for a healthcare organization’s digital experience to create a true impact on revenue and care, the strategy must bring users back time after time, as well as offer a simple and clear interface for them to interact with.

Why do digital front doors fail?
What might be causing patients not to use or return to a provider’s online portal? The answer lies within platform visibility. According to the same Forrester report, when asked about their HCO’s digital platform, 19 percent of respondents said it hasn’t occurred to them to interact with their HCO in this manner, and another 19 percent said they believe it’s easier to call when they need information or support. HCOs will continue to fail to optimize their digital platforms if their consumers are unaware of how to navigate them, or their existence online at altogether. Organizations must first implement customer journey mapping and encourage modern feedback methods. Only then will providers fully understand what the customer wants from a digital experience, and be able to explain which platforms are available to them and how they can be navigated.

It’s always about growth, engagement and retention
Healthcare organizations are not unlike other industries; the three pillars of success for any digital experience are growth, engagement, and retention. To effectively determine the success of a digital front door strategy, providers must focus on creating measurable targets for these three key performance indicators:

  • Grow: when done right, digital front doors provide virality loops that act as an acquisition marketing enabler in attracting customer segments that your Health System is targeting
  • Engage: digital front doors keep customers engaged in their personal care journey, as well as their families’, helping to shift the industry from “sick care” to holistic proactive, preventative healthcare
  • Retain: digital front doors increase customer retention and cross-pollination of services; optimized customer experience increase stickiness and reduce churn and revenue leakage

The future of healthcare is now
If the health crisis has taught us anything, it’s that there is no better time to innovate. Although COVID-19 caused this unprecedented shift in the healthcare industry, this new focus on digital is not disappearing once the virus subsides. Patients have come to expect that their digital experiences can and will keep up with their evolving needs and meet an exceptional level of care delivery. In the new normal, it’s key that communication between the patient, device, and care provider is made frictionless, in a bid to rebuild trust, satisfaction, and nurture the all-important virtual patient relationship. Measuring success against appropriate milestones will allow providers to be prepared for future waves of the pandemic and plan strategies to digitally serve patients under extraordinary circumstances. As the world shifts further towards “holistic health”, healthcare providers must become digital companies in order to survive.

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