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January 31, 2024
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3 min read

Best practices for building an AI-powered digital front door in healthcare

Explore best practices for implementing an AI-powered digital front door in healthcare. Drive patient engagement and streamline operations using these proven strategies.

Trevor Jonas
Best practices for building an AI-powered digital front door in healthcare

Across nearly every industry, technology is the cornerstone of consumer engagement. Meanwhile, healthcare finds itself at a pivotal crossroads. The challenge? How to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) into the patient experience, transforming traditional pathways into a modern, efficient, compassionate digital front door. According to a survey of healthcare leaders conducted by Guidehouse, the digital front door is one of the top three priorities for planned investment in 2024.

“I think that we have to see experience as a differentiator,” said Mona Baset, Vice President of Digital Services at Intermountain Health. “If we can’t deliver that, patients will dump us and go somewhere else. There’s just not a lot of leeway anymore.”

A study from Bain & Company and KLAS Research found that 80% of US healthcare providers plan to accelerate spending on IT and software with AI top of mind. With this significant level of investment, organizations must learn from previous innovation cycles and follow three best practices to build an AI-powered digital front door for healthcare.

Best Practice #1: Solve the core problem and expand from there

As with any significant purchasing decision, having a clear understanding of the core problem to be solved is the critical jumping-off point. Rather than use a feature checklist to evaluate digital front door solutions, healthcare organizations should start by identifying and aligning around their desired outcomes. For example, if the ideal end-state is a digital self-service posture that does not require phone calls, then key performance indicators (KPIs) like increased slot utilization or a reduction in no-shows should rise to the top.

In this context, AI becomes pivotal. It’s not just about implementing various AI tools; it’s about harnessing AI to understand and enhance the entire patient experience. Research shows that investing in point solutions is a surefire way to create a disjointed patient experience, one that will lead many to seek care from other providers. 63% of patients said that their provider’s digital tools do not meet expectations.

Because of the way patients and staff experience things in a healthcare setting, siloed thinking has largely become the default for healthcare organizations. “We have to think horizontally,” said Dr. Patrick McGill, EVP, Chief Transformation Officer at Community Health Network. 

By leveraging AI, digital front door initiatives can become more than just individual tools; they become a coherent system that intelligently adapts to patient needs. That starts with AI-powered digital front door solutions that integrate deeply with the electronic health record (EHR), allowing patients to do things like complete a personalized digital registration experience before they ever step foot in a clinic. Similarly, with more than two-thirds of healthcare providers seeking to streamline their technology stack in 2024 according to Bain, it is imperative to choose a partner that provides an AI-powered platform that offers multiple digital front door solutions. This way, a single partner can grow and evolve with you.

Best Practice #2: Evaluate the impact of digital front door solutions on your staff workflows

With a heavy emphasis on the patient impact of digital front door technologies, it can be easy to overlook the impact on staff workflows. A core benefit of deploying AI within the digital front door is to free staff from labor-intensive processes once and for all. Instead of simply digitizing workflows without reducing manual touches, AI performs tasks that have historically required staff – but with greater speed and accuracy. 

AI accomplishes this by using advanced algorithms and machine learning techniques to automate complex tasks, such as patient scheduling and triaging patient inquiries. For instance, AI can analyze incoming patient data to determine the urgency of appointments, efficiently allocate resources, and even predict patient no-shows, thereby optimizing the schedule. Similarly, conversational AI can handle routine patient inquiries, from appointment scheduling to prescription refills, enabling staff to focus on more critical, hands-on patient care.

When done right, an AI-powered digital front door for healthcare eliminates faxes, phone calls, work queues, and manual data entry, all of which keep your staff from working at the top of license. The best practice is to engage staff early and often by collaborating to map out workflows, training them on how patients experience new digital front door solutions, and redirecting their time to higher-level work once those solutions are in place.

Best Practice #3: Use an agile approach to implementation to realize value quickly

Today, months or years-long technology implementations must be avoided. Board members expect clear, tangible results, quickly, from any new digital front door deployment. As a result, leading healthcare organizations are adopting an agile implementation approach to drive a quicker return on investment. 

“An important part of the conversation with both clinical teams as well as with the IT team, is the word try,” said Jeri Koester, Chief Information and Digital Officer at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “Let's just try this. We can very much contain this and we will be able to validate quickly and we will be able to understand if it's having an impact. So let's just try it.”

Along with a shift in mindset, an agile implementation approach means starting with multiple smaller deployments on a rolling basis to ensure minimal IT lift or disruption to the existing EHR infrastructure. Every digital front door implementation should focus on quality assurance, resource utilization, and scaling through continuous iteration.

The integration of AI into your patient engagement strategy is no longer just an option; it’s a necessity. Adopting these best practices for an AI-powered digital front door not only allows you to keep pace with technology–it positions your organization to set the pace.

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