The digital front door: Why it's so important in healthcare

Although a digital front door in healthcare may imply only activities such as care inquiry or appointment scheduling, it is really about using technology to improve all touchpoints throughout the patient and partner journey.

In a webinar held in April hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by InterSystems, Mutaz Shegewi, research director, worldwide provider IT transformation strategies at IDC Health Insights introduced the concept of the digital front door, and then, after an overview of UC Davis’ digital front door strategy, Lynda Rowe, senior adviser of value-based markets at InterSystems, moderated a discussion , with Michael Marchant, director of system integration and health information exchange at UC Davis Health, about the importance of a digital front door and UC Davis' application of this technology.

Four key takeaways:

  1. Top of mind for healthcare organizations are next-generation technologies, industry challenges and data proliferation. According to Mr. Shegewi, the industry continues on its digital transformation journey, which began before COVID-19 and accelerated during the pandemic. "We see health IT recalibrating clinical documentation, revenue cycle management and digital patient experiences," he said. In addition, health systems face an aging population, growing chronic health conditions, cost pressures and a complex regulatory environment. "Finally, data proliferation is continuing to impact everything from storage to security and interoperability."

  2. A digital front door encompasses all touchpoints where payers and providers digitally interact with patients and members. In a digital front door framework shared by Mr. Shegewi, not only does a digital front door play a role in the patient initiation stage, but the digital front door also facilitates interactions with patients during the pre-service, service, postservice and follow-up stages. "The digital front door gravitates healthcare toward a more consumer-friendly, patient-centric paradigm," Mr. Shegewi said. "It's powered by digital touchpoints that drive better access, engagement and experiences across the service continuum."

  3. U.C. Davis Health's digital front door program was initially centered on providing data access to patients. U.C. Davis Health's digital front door initiative was initially driven by the 21st Century Cures Act which requires providers to offer patient access to electronic health information. The legislative requirement is to provide patients with access to the U.S. Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) data set. For U.C. Davis Health, this meant providing patients with access to "open notes" which includes information such as clinical notes, test results, medications, immunizations and much more.

    U.C. Davis Health's digital front door program revolved around creating application programming interface (API) availability, particularly tied to opening physician notes, to complement other information such as lab or pathology reports that were already available. "We opened up the chart to make all of that information available," Mr. Marchant said. "We had to educate physicians about the charting process and there was a lot of communication around the legal and compliance processes.

  4. U.C. Davis Health's digital front door goes beyond providing data just to patients; it involves sharing data with providers, payers and partners. In working to comply with the 21st Century Cures Act, U.C. Davis Health looked at its enterprise strategy to determine what other constituents it wanted to make sure had access to data. These key constituents included providers, payers and partners.

    As an academic medical center that gets lots of referrals from community providers, the referral process has been cumbersome and difficult to navigate. A goal was to improve the referral process to support more referrals while taking the burden off of community providers who tend to be technically unsophisticated but are an important source of referrals. As a result, U.C. Health's digital front door initiative has involved automating aspects of the referral and payer authorization process. "Enabling the APIs for them [providers] to provide that referral to us electronically, and for us to provide them with status updates and information about the patient visit electronically via these APIs, is a leading use case," Mr. Marchant said.

    Another use case is connecting directly with payers for claims payment and claims statuses. "As the payers are enabling APIs on their side, leveraging the infrastructure they're deploying and allowing us to do direct connects . . . makes it a lot quicker for our organization from a revenue standpoint," Mr. Marchant said. "That data allows us to implement more automation.

    Partners, including health IT and application vendors, are another important constituency. All of these organizations benefit from being able to access real-time information through secure APIs. 

IDC predicts that by 2023, 65 percent of patients will have accessed care through a digital front door. Technology from partners such as InterSystems can help healthcare providers improve their digital front door by finding better ways to improve access, engagement and experience across the service continuum.

To view the full webinar, click here.

To register for upcoming webinars, click here.

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