As COVID-19 hit and as the adoption of telehealth exploded, I started really thinking about what this means for healthcare. One of the early insights I had was that the adoption of telehealth was going to create a new digital front door.
When I said this, it resonated with a lot of people, but it turned out we all had a different view on what was meant by a digital front door. As I’ve talked to more people about this, I think we’re actually seeing two new digital front doors happening in healthcare: the Patients’ Entrance to Healthcare and Digital Check-In. In this two part series, we’ll share what we see happening with both Digital Front Doors.
Digital Front Door – Patient Entrance
What I originally intended when I talked about the digital front door was the way a patient selected a provider and chose to be seen by the health system. Basically, how did a patient choose to get care? Even before COVID-19 this was getting messy. A patient had to choose between their PCP, a specialist, convenient care, urgent care, retail care (ie. Walmart, Walgreens, etc.), and the ED just to name a few. The options were plentiful and it was far from clear which option was the best option.
Add in the complexities of insurance companies and what they’re cover and reimburse, and it’s been a mess for patients to know where they should go to get the care they need. Even in my personal experience I had to try 4 different options to get the care I needed because of one limitation or another. It was a real problem before COVID-19 and is still a problem today.
As has happened with a lot of things during COVID-19, this problem has just gotten worse. COVID-19 introduced a whole suite of telehealth options that many hadn’t considered before. Within telehealth you have your PCP telehealth, the health system telehealth, your insurance company’s telehealth, direct to consumer telehealth, care specific telehealth, and much more. Needless to say, if I’m a patient, I’m confused on when I should use which modality of telehealth or in person visits.
Anytime there’s a confusion like this, it presents an opportunity. I call this opportunity the new Digital Front Door. Given the complexities of the situation, it’s the perfect opportunity for a tech platform to be our front door to the healthcare system that routes us to the right kind of care based on our needs.
What’s not clear to me is which company is going to own the front door. Will it be our PCP? Probably not. Most aren’t ready to do this. Will it be the health system? Maybe since they have a really vested interest in referral patterns. However, their challenge is that many don’t have the mindset needed to really own this piece of the patient experience. What about telehealth companies? They don’t have these capabilities now and are biased by their telehealth offerings, but they could potentially embrace this as a way to drive telehealth visits. What about payers? You’d think they’d want to own this experience, but patients don’t trust their insurance companies and so there would be an uphill battle for them to solve this problem in a way that patients trust. Will it be a startup company or possibly one of the symptom checker companies?
Who will own this digital front door isn’t clear to me, but this does present a huge opportunity for healthcare. Done right, patients can be routed to the right point of care at the right time which creates the best patient experience. How amazing would that be?
We’d love to hear what you think about this new digital entrance into healthcare. How will it play out? Who do you think will own this space? Will it be shared by multiple organizations? Will no one really do this well because it’s too complex? Let us know in the comments.
Also, check back tomorrow when we’ll dive into the other new digital front door for healthcare: Digital Patient Check-In.