Reimagining today’s digital front door for evolving patient expectations

In this blog series, we’ll explore 6 key lessons for modernizing the digital front door in a way that is complementary to, and not disruptive of existing workflows.

By Gianna Fornesi - February 23, 2021

In today’s digital world, it’s no surprise patients have come to expect the same on-demand access and convenience from healthcare that they’ve become accustomed to as consumers of retail, banking and travel. 

What's more, the pandemic further exacerbated the need to improve patient engagement, support touchless check-in and registration, and respond swiftly to new demands for virtual care and telehealth. While EHRs are incredibly powerful as systems of record, many organizations are looking to supplement these capabilities with digital intake solutions designed to improve patient engagement. 

Today, there are a plethora of patient intake management platforms on the market. However, most health systems lack the appetite or bandwidth for the complex IT implementations or disruption to existing workflows that these solutions require.

Intelligent automation is being adopted by health systems of all sizes to expedite the patient intake process, optimize existing workflows for zero-contact interactions, and increase overall provider capacity. 

For example, organizations looking to build a mobile check-in and visit experience can use intelligent automation to extract patient data in the EHR and use it to automatically fill out fields that the patient has shared in a previous visit. Likewise, everything patients share in their mobile intake and registration can be automatically populated back into the EHR, providing an up-to-date patient record for providers and freeing up staff capacity to spend time on patients, not data entry.

In this blog series, we’ll explore 6 key lessons for modernizing the digital front door in a way that is complementary to, and not disruptive of existing workflows.

Lesson #1: Enable digital engagement outside of standalone apps and portals 

Over 90% of US providers now offer a patient portal. However, most health systems still report low patient engagement rates, with many sharing that 3 out of 4 patients never engage through the portal. One explanation for this is that portals are often designed for patients who are already digitally engaged with the health system, rather than patients who are less digitally literate. 

It’s important to consider that the patients who are most likely to digitally engage are also most likely to be experiencing “app fatigue” - a desire to reduce the number of apps on their phone rather than add yet another icon that they may only use once a year. This is why health systems should think about intelligent automation as the thread that connects home-grown apps and portals with SMS messaging, email and web-based experiences, into a single, cohesive experience that can reach patients across the spectrum of digital dexterity.

For example, Intermountain Health found that by complementing their My Health+ app with web- and SMS-based pre-visit digital intakes, powered by Notable, over 70% of patients now complete their entire registration before their visit. Providing patients with an alternative way to digitally engage that does not require an app to be downloaded or a password to be remembered leads to over 4X increases in pre-visit registration completion rates compared to what has been observed across other organizations using a “portal only” approach. 

Lesson #2: Digitally transform all touch points to create omnichannel experiences

2020 ushered in an explosive proliferation in virtual care. Evidence suggests that during the earlier stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth utilization increased by over 150%. As with other industries, patients expect a seamless experience across all digital channels, not just telehealth. Because of this, all patient interactions must be digitally transformed and intuitively designed, regardless of the modality. This includes telehealth visits, virtual and in-person registration and check in, and post-visit follow-up.

To do this, administrators must not think of telehealth and in-person as distinct channels to support independently, but rather, as individual touch points across a broader, unified patient journey. Accordingly, they should look to establish consistent, standardized experiences across all modalities and contexts.

This approach, centered around consistent digital design and implementation across channels, will increase both patient engagement and improve the patient experience. 

A fully automated digital intake experience isn’t just good for patients.

Providers can also benefit immensely from intelligent automation by streamlining the processing of collecting data from patients before the visit. By automating pre-visit intake forms like history-of-present illness (HPI), clinical documentation, and even order entry - health systems can save providers more than 700 hours per provider per year. 

In response to evolving patient expectations, Austin Regional Clinic (ARC) has invested in providing a superior digital patient experience, including same-day and after-hours appointments, 24/7 scheduling, and access to their care team through ARC MyChart.

But even as they continued to improve access to care services and providers, ARC struggled to cope with increasing administrative burden for providers and staff. Clinicians spent hours per day on documentation, with many spending more time in Epic into the evenings and weekends, or blocking additional time during the day to ‘catch up’. Since launching Notable to automate clinical documentation, ARC has reduced note documentation time by over 50%. For physicians, this means more time delivering care, and less time documenting it.

As health systems plan for the next chapter of patient care, and look to anticipate the needs of patients beyond the pandemic, now is the opportunity to define new ways of identifying and engaging patients by meeting them where they are -- which is increasingly on-the-go.

Next up: how to build a digital patient intake process that harnesses the power of personalization.

Get all 6 strategies for designing a digital front door that patients love. Download the guide.

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