How to Build a Better Digital Front Door for Healthcare

By Cindy Gaines, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer  

There’s a lot of interest these days in healthcare’s “digital front door.”  

For many, the digital front door seems to mean simply the ability to do self-scheduling. If a patient can make an appointment on their own using digital tools, then they’ve entered the digital front door, so they can check that one off the list.   

But this perspective is short-sighted; it ignores the many opportunities to use digital technology to enhance patient experience through all the touchpoints they have with the organization and, at the same time, to create a better working environment for the clinical care teams.  

The threshold of a “digital front door” might be patient self-scheduling, but what about your experience once you get through that entrance? It’s really about the entire patient experience and using technology to engage that patient at key touchpoints along their care journey. Technology that they’re often already using outside of health care and in their own personal lives.  And it’s not just their experience, but also the experience of the staff working with the patients. It’s the way that care is orchestrated to improve the outcomes of patients, the efficiency of operations, and the satisfaction of caregivers.  

I’ve spent over 30 years in health systems both as a clinical nurse and in leadership.  As a leader, I split this time between quality and operations across the continuum.  In my last role, I served as the vice president of quality, responsible for population health management and went on to serve as the chief operating officer and president of administration of a medical group with 70 locations of care. And I can say with certainty that technology introduced over the years was needed, but often did not make my work or the work of the staff easier.   

Technology has been introduced to hospitals and other care environments over the years to perform necessary functions, a great example of this is closed loop medication administration. It truly improves safety and ensures the 5 rights of medication administration. But despite the importance of this to patient care, the workflow is more complicated – as I come into the room with my computer on wheels, my wand, and the medications.  Did the technology make it safer? Absolutely!  But did it make it easier?  I can’t honestly say the technology made medication administration easier. And this is just one of the many technologies introduced over the years.  

There is a lot of technology that our providers and staff utilize to manage patient care day-to-day. Although needed, these technologies have changed the nature of care. A top complaint I have heard from patients is: “My provider is looking at the computer instead of me.” With reports to look up, flags to address, information to input and apps to consult, providers are distracted and harried. The technology has come between the provider and the patient, diminishing the experience of care for both.  We became clinicians to take care of patients.  Sitting down and talking with them.  Holding their hand.  Caring for their needs. Now we have technology that at times makes it challenging to connect with the patient and is sometimes even a physical barrier. 

A proper “digital front door” approach, by contrast, is built around finding ways to use technology to enhance care, not constrain it.  

We need to ask ourselves: How do we embrace technology in a way that helps everyone? How can we use automation to support transitions of care in patient-centered ways? How do we keep our provider and staff working at the top of their license by using automation to manage necessary tasks? How can we help patients use technology to stay healthy at home or live well with chronic disease?  

One major benefit that technology can bring to patient experience is better continuity of care. Keeping patients plugged into an ongoing journey of care that’s continuous, guided, and supported is a perfect role for digital technology to be utilized.  

Lumeon’s care journey orchestration platform sits atop a provider’s EMR application and runs behind the scenes to automate tasks where possible, and proactively streamline and support patient care journeys.  

Let me walk you through an example: When a patient is scheduled for ambulatory surgery, the typical process is that a nurse will call the patient to do an intake, document key clinical information and conduct risk assessments. There are only so many patients that can be processed in a day, because there only so many phone calls that can be made in a day, and that is if the patient answers the phone.  But let’s flip this!   

With Lumeon, the automated system sends patients a message directing them to a survey they can fill out on their own. Based on the patient’s answers and the information that Lumeon obtained from the medical record, Lumeon then puts the patients into risk categories that determine the type of follow-up — low risk continues virtually on the pre-operative process, medium risk receive a phone call, and high risk are scheduled for in-person assessment.  Instead of every patient needing a call, the nurse is freed up to focus on higher risk patients.   

So, what does it look like when the digital front door opens?  It is a well-orchestrated experience. And this is what Lumeon does. We improve the lives of patients and care teams by orchestrating a seamless, coordinated care experience, one pathway at a time. 

Technology that can actually make a nurse’s life easier, while also improving patient experience. That’s a game changer!  It’s this transformation that is so exciting for me when joining Lumeon, click here if you want to see what life could be like beyond the ‘digital front door’. 

Find out how to build a connected experience that patients will love, by downloading Reimagining Patient experience: The Guide for Patient Access Leaders.