The future of healthcare is being driven by digital transformation and innovation. Healthcare is evolving into a new era where nearly everything is connected through digital technologies to improve the way that healthcare is delivered. Most things that need to happen before the patient walks into a clinic or the hospital – from appointment scheduling to check in and digital intake forms – can be done using technology.  

This was true before the pandemic, but now almost every interaction within a healthcare delivery organization (HDO) starts with a call, click, or chat. As hospitals and healthcare systems continue to re-evaluate their patient engagement strategy, they need to intentionally design a hybrid experience.  

There’s an entire exchange that can happen with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), but digital isn’t the whole story. 

Throughout the pandemic, healthcare systems have seen increases in the volume of traditional voice channels. Patients have been calling health systems for primary care triage when they used to go to the urgent care. There is so much we can do beyond voice, and HDOs will have to blend analog and digital tools. A simple phone interaction evolves into a virtual triage when call center agents can seamlessly access the electronic health record (EHR), customer relationship management (CRM), and scheduling software through a single pane of glass.  

The goal of great technology is to drive all the complexity to the background, so every agent knows the contextual information they need to meet the patient where they are and in a channel of their choice.  

Changing the patient engagement model  

What we are seeing in the industry is an expansion of virtual care that runs across the care continuum. It stretches from patient intake to inpatient rounding, and from specialty consults to post-acute/chronic care management.  

Cisco is broadly defining the digital front door to encompass digital collaboration across voice, text, email, and AI chatbots. Digital front door is also communication between care teams and patients to include picture and document exchange.  

Digital front door technology can positively impact almost every interaction from pre patient check-in, to after they are discharged. This includes: 

  • Patient intake – scheduling, referrals, pre-op services, financial counseling, and revenue cycle
  • Post-acute – digital services to assist with notification adherence, chronic condition symptom management, and more 

In most health systems, patient intake is primarily a manual process and interaction has largely been focused on phone call workflows.  

The rise in robocall and spam have limited trust in the voice channel, which means patients don’t always answer phone calls. When this happens, the communication process extends.  

Reimagining the patient communication process requires connecting the systems and applications to the patient data. AI and natural language processing (NLP) will play a big role in accelerating speed to action and increasing the frequency of patient touch points, both before and after clinical interventions.  

AI can help gather relevant data by guiding a patient in an automated virtual triage exchange and then selectively escalating to an enterprise-scale contact center. At that point, skilled clinicians can pick up the interaction without losing any data in the process.  

Across the United States, there is a shortage of clinicians in many service lines. If it isn’t an emergency, AI technology can start a patient interaction, digitally freeing up clinical resources for other tasks.  

Virtual care and digital front door combined with technologies like AI and NLP bring a new promise to streamlining the efficiency and effectiveness of the patient journey.  

Creating easier, frictionless experiences today leads to brand loyalty and greater patient satisfaction tomorrow. The digital front door is one of the most powerful tools to enable organizations to improve care access and increase patient satisfaction. 


Troy Yoder

Global Healthcare Leader

Healthcare Industry Solutions Group