Spend just ten minutes talking with healthcare leaders about technology and you will inevitably hear about the importance of a ‘digital front door.’ A digital front door means providing access to healthcare wherever your patient is and support throughout their care journey. The market is flooded with solutions to help address specific use cases, but most health systems still need to develop a cohesive strategy to put the patient at the center.

These days, Amazon, Walgreens, and even my hair salon know me better than my primary care provider. Understanding your patient’s experience and implementing your digital front door strategy have never been more important. Recent Accenture research indicates if health systems evolve to meet new consumer experience needs, they can expedite financial recovery and capture patients from competitors, increasing their revenues by 5 to 10 percent above pre-COVID levels within 12 months. For a $5 billion health system, this creates a $250 to $500 million opportunity in additional annual revenues.

A true digital front door starts as a secure digital platform, with contact center at the core. This platform integrates your electronic medical record, practice management, and CRM systems. It allows for rapid expansion of tools that support areas like remote monitoring, wellness, patient education, and mental health. It then ties the experience together to make sure your patients have multiple interaction opportunities throughout their care journey.

When developing your strategy to enhance the patient experience, keep these four areas in mind:

1. Patient Activation

  • Provide opportunities to bring your front door directly to potential patients. Share information about when to seek care. Include links to your system to enable direct appointment scheduling from your symptom checker app. Build interactive wellness campaigns across multiple social platforms. The opportunities to create effective engagement are nearly limitless.
  • Recognize the impact of the digital divide. Recognize that people have varying access to broadband and different levels of digital literacy. Establish multiple ways to interact with your potential patients in their native language and environment. This includes omni-channel options like smartphone apps, websites, chatbots, texting, Facebook, WhatsApp, and telephone.

2. Patient Access

  • Make the experience frictionless. Patients will always choose ease when it comes to routine care. Your strategy should enable proactive digital-first patient pathways to shift the experience from transactional encounters to a series of connected, meaningful interactions. This includes self-scheduling, digital registration, check-in and arrival, triage and questionnaires, virtual visit options, mobile/web payments, and surveys.

Woman using device for virtual care visit


3. Patient Empowerment

  • Give patients information to stay informed and own their care. Gather and integrate population health data to build targeted patient pathways based on population risk, conditions, and comorbidities. Providing the right tools and education make the patient an active and engaged part of their care team, and one who is more likely to proactively manage her/his care.
  • Make resources available outside normal business hours. Provide 24×7, omni-channel self-service options for scheduling, patient education, connections to community resources, wellness trackers, curated provider selection, and wayfinding so patients interact with you when it is most convenient for them.

4. Patient Experience

  • Build for the long term. Use data from your CRM to curate the patient’s experience with a focus on building and sustaining lifelong relationships. Develop different tools and interactions as your patients’ needs evolve over time, both clinically and financially.
  • Anticipate changes. Continuously examine customer service interactions to identify where pain points exist for your different patient populations and adjust your offerings to address those pain points.
  • Integrate your digital front door with your physical one. Location-aware technologies guide patients from their homes to the parking lot, through the entrance, and into the departments they need to visit.  They alert the department when your patient arrives, eliminating the need to stand at a registration desk. These technologies direct your patient to an available exam room, guide them to the pharmacy to pick up their prescriptions after the appointment, and even help them remember where they parked after the visit.
  • Automate for better results. Use data from your enterprise systems for context to automate as many interactions for your patients as possible and provide relevant recommendations to guide your patients to the best services. Automation not only improves the patient experience, but also delivers operational efficiencies by removing manual workflows, improving the quality and consistency of processes, conserving your service capacity, and reducing costs.

Achieving an effective digital front door strategy requires input from stakeholders across the ecosystem—clinical, business, IT, community, and patient advocacy—to make sure the voice of the patient rings clear and to verify that each representative understands where they fit on the journey to providing meaningful, patient-centric experiences for the entire patient population.

Keep in mind that while your patients want convenience, security and privacy remain critical. Success requires developing a partnership with your digital front door vendor and understanding how to deploy security at every step. A secure, simple, and welcoming digital experience translates into lifelong patient loyalty. Every step you take to open the digital front door fully creates a better patient experience and delivers business benefits for your brand as well.

To learn more about how Cisco solutions and services can help power an inclusive future for all through technology, tune into our thought-leadership session onsite or watch on-demand.

Attending HIMSS 2021 in-person? Visit Cisco in the Digital Park, booth 3929 and sign up for your 1:1 meeting with Cisco CX today.


Melissa Owens

Senior Director, Healthcare Practice Lead

Customer Experience