How to Get Patients in the Digital Front Door

Expanding the Patient Journey with Omni-Channel Healthcare

Jan 5, 2022. 6 MIN READ
Lauren Wallace
Editorial Lead, Salesforce
In the past, digital channels were a nice-to-have for healthcare providers. Patients had no other way to meet with doctors or receive medical care than to visit brick-and-mortar locations. The patient/provider relationship was transactional in nature — and the expectation was simple: Patients booked appointments, and providers offered in-person care. That's rapidly changing.
Now, consumers have come to expect digital-first options from every industry, including healthcare. In fact, 65% say that COVID-19 has elevated their expectations of companies’ digital capabilities.
It’s time for providers to expand the patient experience beyond the doctor's office and invest in the digital front door. By implementing a sound digital front door strategy, providers can create compelling, personalized omni-channel healthcare experiences that unite physical and digital channels, streamline access to care, and boost engagement to improve health outcomes.
Providers who bring value across the patient journey will increase patient satisfaction, lower the cost to serve, and come out on top in this new digital era of healthcare. Here’s how.

Patient-centric digital front door strategies

Patients bring their consumer expectations with them to healthcare. They want compelling, personalized experiences online and streamlined access to care across any channel of interaction — in the form of patient portals, virtual visits, online prescription ordering, click and collect, and more.
In short, that means it’s no longer enough for providers to merely transact with patients.
But digitizing processes, creating online storefronts, and spinning up self-service portals is no small feat. Providers have their own unique challenges when it comes to creating compelling, personalized experiences. Here’s how to navigate them.

Work with your technology partners on HIPAA requirements

Providers’ first major roadblock to implementing digital solutions? Data and privacy regulations. Keeping healthcare systems in compliance with the stringent physical, technical, and administrative safeguards of HIPAA requires skilled specialists and resources. Developers and security architects are necessary to implement tools like multi-factor authentication, IP monitoring, fine-grained roles and permissions, and more.
Choose HIPAA-compliant solutions and involve those on your team with specialized knowledge from the start. It’s much easier to address compliance proactively — together with your technology partners — than it is to try to retroactively make the pieces of the puzzle fit.

Unsilo your data to gain a 360-degree view of your patients

Over the years, providers have responded to privacy regulations and rising patient expectations by adopting different clinical, financial, and EHR systems. But this has created a patchwork of technologies that don’t communicate with each other. Data is trapped across disparate systems, which makes it hard to get a complete view of the patient.
The right digital architecture will provide centralized data, giving marketing, commerce, and service teams visibility into a patient’s behaviors, preferences, and intents. With a unified patient view, teams can intelligently orchestrate interactions across different channels and create a seamless, patient-centric brand experience.
Sixty-five percent of healthcare consumers expect providers to know the details of their patient record once they identify themselves — and a 360-degree view of the patient makes this possible across your entire organization.

Implement self-service options to lower costs and streamline support

Self-service is a key component of customer support. And 77% of healthcare consumers say that customer support from providers is very important.
Online resources like patient communities, searchable FAQ sections, knowledge articles, and videos provide valuable information patients are looking for while reducing support costs. Chatbots, recommendations, and reminders can significantly reduce call center costs while also increasing patient engagement and satisfaction.

Personalize omni-channel interactions to increase satisfaction

Personalized experiences are no longer a nice-to-have. In fact, 52% of consumers expect offers to always be personalized. The trick is delivering individualized experiences at scale while also keeping costs down and response times prompt. Automation helps here. For example, if a patient reaches out online, a chatbot can answer common questions and make recommendations based on qualifying data.
One of the most important aspects of patient-centric care is interacting with patients where and how they want. Consumers appreciate digital channels that make care more accessible.
  • Instant messaging: Patients prefer instant responses to support-related questions. Instant messaging can also be used by providers to create a more seamless, personal research experience for patients looking for answers about specific health concerns.
  • Video chat: Replacing or supplementing in-person visits with virtual meetings does more than just add a layer of convenience – it makes care more accessible and safer for patients who may experience barriers to entry like transportation or mobility issues.
  • Patient communities: Crowdsourcing knowledge and support with online communities connects patients with similar health concerns in a way that isn’t possible at brick-and-mortar locations. These digital spaces provide a place to get moral support from peers, share tips, and learn about available resources.

How the digital front door extends the patient journey

Engaging patients online has the power to completely change how healthcare companies interact with patients. Rather than singular transactions, providers can expand services to include virtual visits, a portal to access healthcare products and prescriptions, and easily discoverable online resources. That beats long waits on the phone for the front desk and calling different providers.
Here are a few examples of how providers can use digital channels to create a more holistic patient experience.

Attract prospective patients with a compelling provider site

Prospective patients don’t just start their searches for providers online; they research symptoms, available treatments, and more before they ever contact a professional. A compelling website will get patients through the digital front door with optimized, informative articles, patient communities where they can connect with others, and searchable products and services that meet specific needs. To meet rising patient expectations, providers must offer easily navigable sites with ecommerce capabilities, crowdsourced knowledge, and online scheduling.

Implement ecommerce capabilities to offer products and services

By implementing ecommerce, providers make it easier for patients to find the products and services they need to stay healthy. Ordering medications online is much more convenient than driving to a pharmacy, especially for patients who live in rural areas or don’t have reliable transportation. Accessing prescribed medical devices — like hearing aids and glucose monitors — has traditionally been harder than it should be. Offering a digital storefront that streamlines the ordering process and gets devices to doorsteps faster improves patient satisfaction and health outcomes.

Engage with patients post-care and post-purchase

Patients not only expect engagement from providers to be tailored — they also expect it to be proactive. Nearly two–thirds want providers to follow up on their progress or outcomes after visits. In short: A provider’s job doesn’t end when a patient’s appointment is over. Now, providers can open feedback loops with patients to see how their visit went, send automated reminders about follow-up care, and suggest products and services related to patients’ specific needs.

Tips for getting started with a digital front door strategy

Moving to digital channels and implementing ecommerce is a big step, especially for providers who have traditionally relied on in-person services. Here are a few considerations for your journey that will help set you up for success.

Decide what products and services you want to sell online

Perform market research and gather data about patient needs. These insights will give you information about which products and services would be most valuable. For example, consider which treatments you commonly prescribe and what related services you can provide. Think beyond symptoms to determine what you can offer that would address the root causes of common health issues.

Have a clear vision for what your digital patient experience will look like

Consider the entire patient journey and take note of which manual processes can be digitized or streamlined by online channels. Focus on ways to make care more accessible and convenient.
Almost half of patients say it’s very important for providers to offer self-service scheduling options. Online schedulers or chatbots for booking appointments can also free up receptionists’ time to focus on more complex tasks. Virtual consultations can remove barriers to entry for many patients, such as busy work schedules or mobility challenges. Offering online ordering for prescriptions and medical devices can round out the journey and help patients get healthier faster.

Prioritize and plan in phases if necessary

Determine which channel, touchpoint, or patient experience to build out first: customer service, ecommerce, post-care follow-up, or others. Keeping your teams’ input in mind, decide which specific features and capabilities to prioritize first, and which to implement later. Figure out what you need for your launch, then focus on improving and fine-tuning over time.

How Commerce Cloud can help

  • Out-of-the-box tools: Launch quickly with out-of-the-box tools for marketers and merchandisers, using a clicks-based platform, integrated order management, and customer service center.
  • Single source of truth: When only one profile exists for each patient, your marketing, service, and commerce teams can build personalized, 1-to-1 patient journeys using AI-powered insights.
  • HIPAA compliance: While many other ecommerce vendors do not maintain HIPAA standards and require complex workarounds, Salesforce Commerce Cloud has been assessed for HIPAA compliance, and customers can store PHI directly on the platform.


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