Mar 08, 2022



Why You Need to Open the Digital Front Door

Today’s consumers are accustomed to accessing information whenever and wherever they want, and that means seeking out digital platforms in every industry. In the healthcare sector, that means providing patients with full access to their healthcare providers, health records, and more through the electronic devices they’re already using.

The digital front door trend in healthcare is booming, with patients flocking to all that will open. In August 2020, 75 percent of patients reported that they were willing to switch from providers that did not offer virtual service options to those that did. If you haven’t already, now is the time to start using technology to improve the patient journey.

Industry Trends Call for a Digital Transformation

The digital front door trend has roots in two key cultural shifts — our broader digital era and the rise of telehealth. The modern tech-savvy consumer expects businesses to keep up with them online and they search for the same forms of engagement and accessibility offered by industry giants like Amazon, Chase, and Disney. Hospitals and healthcare providers are held to the same high standard. Around 80 percent of patients say that they want the option of accessing healthcare through their smartphones, with 70 percent preferring virtual communication over in-person appointments. Patients appreciate being met where they are — online — and value the businesses, brands, and healthcare providers that can do so.

The rise of telehealth and growing consumer demand for digital front doors go hand in hand. When the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit, telehealth appointments became the primary method of consulting with a physician. In fact, reports from the CDC found that telehealth appointments increased 154 percent during the last week of March 2020!

Telehealth was an essential option when in-person appointments initially waned and has remained a popular choice now that both physicians and patients have realized its convenience. According to our recent patient confidence study, 55 percent of patients feel that telehealth should replace some in-person appointments, and 87 percent say they’re comfortable using their own devices to communicate with doctors. Telehealth has also broadened the scope of care beyond geographic limitations, allowing rural patients and those with limited access to care to be evaluated by industry-leading healthcare professionals when they couldn’t before.

The nature of healthcare — and how patients search for and interact with healthcare providers — has drastically changed, and digital front doors are the best way to keep up.

Maximum Accessibility, Minimal Inconvenience

For patients, the digital front door opens up a path where they’re in complete control of their healthcare needs at any point in time. From filling prescriptions to scheduling appointments, omnichannel access to healthcare allows patients to stay updated and taken care of before, during, and even after their visit to the doctor.

With the increased use of smartwatches, fitness trackers, and health apps, patients are more proactively managing their health. Having direct access to a scheduling calendar, health documents, appointment reminders, and an open communication channel alleviates frustrations that can arise due to long wait times, transportation issues, and tedious paperwork. Also, it helps them maintain control without sacrificing convenience. When looking for a primary care provider, patients rely on digital sources 2.2x more than doctor referrals, so it’s important to have your providers cross their tracks before a competitor does.

Streamlined Efficiency, Better Healthcare

For healthcare providers, embracing this trend is a gateway to better patient care. For example, offering telehealth options via an online portal frees up time for medical staff to address patients in person while keeping appointments running on time. Programs that run on automation, such as interactive voice response phone lines and virtual check-in platforms, can direct patients to the appropriate resources so that there’s a lower risk of miscommunication and misdirection. This way, your patients are always taken care of and know who to reach out to for help whenever they need it.

Maximizing the Digital Front Door For Your Providers

Now that you know how essential digital front doors are, it’s time to make the most of them. What exactly does digital patient engagement look like for your hospital? It depends on how technologically integrated your system already is, but you want to make sure you’re regularly engaging with patients and prospects online, providing a variety of access points for contact and scheduling, and keeping high-quality care a top priority.

Healthgrades can help bolster your digital front door strategy. Our health engagement platform is a reservoir of verified patient reviews, physician background information, and medical resources that have helped half of all Americans connect to providers they can trust. Here are three ways we can help direct more streams of patients through your digital front door:

  • Improving Discoverability: By partnering with Healthgrades, you’re securing a place at the top of search results and intercepting consumers as they view competitors. Our platform draws potential consumers in while enriching your SEO at a low cost per conversion. A recent consumer study of ours shows that only 18 percent of Americans last year used a hospital site as a resource when searching for a specialist. While it’s great to invest in your own site, you have to reach patients where they are — and they’re on Healthgrades.
  • Optimizing Your Profiles: By taking control of your profiles on Healthgrades, you can add profile photos, integrate engaging promotional videos, update office hours instantly, and more. Ensuring that your contact information is accurate prevents prospective patients from reaching a dead end with your practice. We’ve found that such supplemental information increases the likelihood of patients booking an appointment. For example, consumers engage with profiles on Healthgrades that have photos 60% more often. Health systems that partner with Healthgrades can also link directly to their scheduling portal, making it even easier for consumers to make an appointment. 
  • Maintaining Honest Accountability: Consumers begin their health journey online, with 71 percent of patients using online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor. Healthgrades has over 10 million patient reviews on our site, and patients rely on them to compare doctors. It’s vital to monitor patient feedback and respond to reviews, even the negative ones. Doing this shows patients that their experience and feedback matter and that you’re working to address areas of concern.

Having an online portal where patients can interact with your practice in a meaningful and personalized way is helpful, but it’s equally necessary to keep them engaged with an approachable, professional, and knowledgeable online presence.

Embracing Digital Healthcare

All healthcare professionals want to improve the quality of life of every patient who walks through their doors — but they must also pay attention to their digital ones. By optimizing your digital accessibility, you can help providers extend their reach, interact with patients in the ways they prefer, and build on a robust online reputation. Advertise on Healthgrades today to ensure the next digital front door patients knock on is yours.

1Healthgrades Patient Confidence Study, April 2020 – February 2022
3Suzy Consumer Study conducted on behalf of Healthgrades, n=525, January 2022
4Software Advice Master Patient Experience Survey 2020