June 10, 2020 | In Brief

Healthcare providers and the digital-led experience: Key investment areas for patient access centers

COVID-19 has changed how patient access centers must operate to provide a seamless, integrated digital experience for its users

Patient access centers are one of the first points of contact not only for patients but also for providers and the broader communities in which health systems operate. COVID-19 has accelerated the need for focused investment in areas that support an integrated, seamless experience across multiple channels and devices. The availability of multiple, connected points of exchange is essential to providing services that balance an irreplaceable human touch with a digital experience.  

We recommend focusing on the following five investment areas as you look to enhance and optimize your patient access functions:

  1. Self-Service Capabilities – A patient portal or mobile application allows patients to interact with your organization in a digital manner, including scheduling appointments, completing patient registration, refilling medication, communicating with a clinician, obtaining lab or test results, or paying bills  
  2. Chat-bots – Chat-bots act as virtual agents that can handle basic patient requests in place of access center associates, who can be re-deployed to manage high-complexity inquiries or interactions that require a human touch 
  3. Texting Capabilities – Secure text messaging can be used to confirm and cancel appointments, provide clinic or location information, and distribute simple visit preparation instructions 
  4. Tele-triage – Tele-triage can rapidly enhance patients’ ability to remotely assess their health symptoms and navigate to the most appropriate care setting via a digital experience in an easy-to-use format
  5. Digital Front Door – A “digital front door” is the result of uniting various experiences like those supported by the preceding four capabilities. While there are many ways to approach the establishment of a digital front door for your health system, the basic objective is to offer patients access to data and critical health and organizational information, allowing them to act on that information in meaningful ways. 

The provision of such a holistic consumer experience decreases inefficiencies by streamlining administrative tasks and connecting otherwise disparate pieces of information and access points (e.g., physician ratings, organizational news, scheduling, patient portals, virtual care, and test results).  

While hospitals and health systems continue to address an array of complex issues, the value of investing in patient access functions and capabilities lies in the extent to which your organization is prepared to deliver seamless, frictionless patient experiences—taking pressure off both patients and your staff. 

A digital front door is the very definition of this value proposition, supporting patient engagement across care settings, helping them assess their needs, and offering useful information and guidance at each and every point along their care journeys, outside of face-to-face or telephone interactions. 

Whether your organization is ready to set up a digital front door experience or is simply looking to increase patient access functions with a few additional capabilities, the development of a cost-effective multi- or omni-channel experience has never been more important. With the need for telehealth and other digital capabilities expected to continue even as the health crisis subsides, investment today in digital-led experiences can quickly translate to cost savings, improved patient acquisition and retention, reduced burdens on access center staff, and better overall health outcomes.

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