What You Need to Know: Digital Front Door

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Megan Dodds

Marketing Specialist

Written on December 2, 2021


The buzzword “digital front door” has been used in healthcare circles since 2017. The concept itself is by no means “new” and is actually the reason why Modea exists.

In this article, we will explain what a digital front door is, why it’s crucial for the future success of your healthcare organization, and 3 principles to get your team started.

What is a “digital front door”?

Over the years, we’ve seen retail giants pave the way for what user experience should look and feel like. As e-commerce grows and competition is at an all-time high, organizations must craft and launch award-winning, omnichannel experiences for consumers. Often with a goal of allowing the user to seamlessly engage with the brand through connected experiences

Healthcare should be no different. And good news! We’ve seen a huge shift in how healthcare providers are prioritizing digital investments over the past few years.

These investments are providing impactful forward movement. Unfortunately, much of this work in healthcare is siloed and can still create pain points for the consumer. If providers want to win more customers in today’s digital landscape, they need to stop seeing digital as a collection of features. Rather, see digital as the way to build a better and more connected customer experience.

“Digital front door” is a strategy that guides healthcare providers to do just this.

“Digital front door is a strategy that leverages the use of technology to create a better and more connected customer experience.”

Often, a digitally connected customer experience in healthcare will include tools such as:

  • Public websites that provide clear information, search tools, and easy access to scheduling.
  • Mobile apps that allow for easy access to the patient portal and provide tools such as symptom checkers or wayfinding.
  • A well-integrated patient portal that provides broad account management.
  • Well-designed and transparent appointment scheduling.
  • Access to scheduled or on-demand telehealth visits.
  • Digital service channels via live and AI-based chat.

Spartanburg and Carilion websites

To be clear, this strategy is not about spinning up new and confusing technologies. Instead, it’s taking the time to truly understand what your customers need most. Remember, you should be making it easier to interact with your brand on a daily basis across platforms. If that means creating something new, then great! Remember, having the right plan and roadmap is the next critical step you would need to take to be successful.

Why should my organization care?

It’s simple. If your healthcare organization doesn’t provide an easy-to-use omnichannel experience, from initial appointment scheduling through the final bill, your patients might go elsewhere, even if the care isn’t as good.

It’s never been easier for a consumer to:

If you don’t invest in the future of your healthcare system now and use your connected digital experiences as a differentiator, not only will your regional competition take away your customers, but so will disruptive new entrants.

3 principles for creating a strong digital front door

So, how should your healthcare system get started? Our team suggests following these 3 simple principles in order to create a strong digital front door.

#1 Connect your customer data and use it well

Every healthcare system has a lot of data, whether or not they are analyzing and consuming that data. A common issue is that data is inherently messy and often housed in silos. This makes it difficult to connect and use it to inform better personalization and digital optimization strategies.

Think about how your local grocery store chain uses your consumer data. They provide relevant and timely coupons based on previous purchases.

Healthcare should be no different

If a customer receives a CRM-generated email and clicks through to a website, the health system could already know plenty of marketing data about the patient. Such as recent searches, what appointments they’ve had, which vaccinations they’ve recently received, etc. If this type of data is being joined and consumed, then the customer can have a more rich, personalized experience.

If your healthcare system is not doing this yet, answering these questions can help your team understand where to start. 

  • Where and how are we capturing customer data?
  • Where and how are we connecting this data?
  • Is our team analyzing and consuming this data to drive initiatives?
  • Do we make data-based decisions?

Free resources:

#2 Create an omnichannel customer experience that works well across all touchpoints

Today you can book a room through Marriott’s mobile app in ways you never could before. When a guest walks into Marriott’s hotel the mobile app will prompt the guest to digitally check in. The guest can now use their phone as a digital key to get into their room and enjoy their stay. All is done without interacting with a single person or waiting in long lines. The experience is simple, easy to use, and leaves the guest happy. Overall, guests engage with the brand in the manner that is most comfortable for them. The key is that they have a unified, on-brand experience throughout each touchpoint.

This example provides inspiration for healthcare by showing how a digital front door strategy can infuse digital tools into an experience to provide frictionless access and thoughtful touchpoints.

The goal is to ensure that your organization creates experiences that make your customers’ lives easier and more convenient.

mobile experiences

What does this look like for healthcare?

For healthcare, this could start with having a patient book an appointment online. When the patient arrives at the physical building the system’s mobile app sends a notification to check-in at a kiosk. The patient does so and is then prompted to sit and wait to be called by the physician. This would provide an experience that minimizes friction and maximizes convenience.

The problem is that historically healthcare has not been at the forefront of creating these beautiful, seamless experiences. We’ve seen healthcare systems spin up mobile apps without a purposeful strategy time and time again. The reasoning, more often than not is, “but our competitors have a mobile app”. 

This thought of “but they have it” is dangerous. Your organization needs to be focused on digitizing healthcare but it is critical to do so with purpose. Don’t fall into the trap of creating and building a bunch of products that are not integrated into your brand’s experience at large. This can even cause more frustration and confusion for your customers.

We suggest starting with a customer journey mapping exercise to find clarity on what’s most important. A journey map is an in-depth process that shows you and your organization how consumers are interacting with your brand. A journey map identifies gaps and opportunities and ultimately gives you a holistic view of what your organization needs.

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#3 Honor your brand in the digital front door

With each touchpoint, your customer needs to know that the continuous experience is that of your brand. If your messaging is not consistent with your brand, mission, and values then you’ll be missing the opportunity to create meaningful brand loyalty with customers.

This suggestion may seem obvious, however, it’s essential to the success of your customer experience. All touchpoints need to have consistent messaging across the board. Whether that’s your mobile app, website, paid advertising, a kiosk, print mailers, etc. Moreso, your digital tools should reflect what makes you special as an organization.

Patagonia is the ideal example of this. The company’s mission statement is “we’re in business to save our home planet”. This statement is blatantly obvious to see, feel, hear whenever a consumer engages with their online content. Sees an ad (famously known for their “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign) or buys clothing from a retailer. Even their product pages reinforce that as a brand, Patagonia isn’t just trying to sell you stuff.  

Patagonia image

Tip: Your organization should have a brand voice and kit to help guide consistency across all platforms.

Next Steps 

In summary, the time is now.  Start today by strategically improving every touchpoint along your customer experience. If you don’t, you could lose business to another hospital system. Or even worse one of the many non-traditional competitors out there who are now providing healthcare services.

If your team feels overwhelmed by the size of the initiative, start small. Complete a customer journey mapping exercise to learn more about your patients and what they need.

Interested in learning what your organization should be thinking about and planning for? 

We’re here to help

Contact us and we’ll set up a time to chat. We’re happy to share how our clients are connecting their patient experiences at large.