The United Kingdom

The Digital Canvas – Beyond the Digital Front Door

August 18, 2022

Paint me an immersive, engaging healthcare ecosystem using a digital canvas:
the journey begins with an omni-channel, human-centric digital front door.

They say that change is often driven by necessity, which was certainly the case throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, where businesses of all manner were forced to adapt their services in order to survive. 

Within healthcare, a sector seldom at the forefront of digital transformation, change had been forecasted long before the virus’ arrival, and was expedited during the pandemic to protect patients and practitioners alike. The level of digitisation witnessed across this period was unprecedented within the sector, with some countries embracing a ‘digital first’ approach to healthcare. This enforced evolution has opened the door to digital health ecosystems in the West, and further accelerated the vibrant ecosystems already seen in Asia.

These consumer-centric digital ecosystems are designed to seamlessly deliver user-specific care by integrating five critical components: 

  1. An omnichannel digital front door built with person-centric engagement in mind, that ensures the inequalities in care are not exacerbated by digital exclusion.
  2. A network of health-service providers (traditional and non-traditional) across care settings.
  3. A system of intelligence that leverages behavioral, social, and health data to analyse patients’ needs, select appropriate providers, and even activate wellness interventions.
  4. A technology backbone that enables data to flow between health, care, wellness behaviors, and actions.
  5. A culture change transformation programme that brings stakeholders, in an empathic manner, into the ecosystem.

Crucially, health ecosystems are not purely digital but rather an integration between physical and digital services. They typically consist of a central orchestrator anchored around a few self-built business models, that also manage multiple partners, including brick-and-mortar providers, health tech start-ups, and IT vendors. 

So, what is the Digital Front Door? 

Historically, the healthcare sector, and the administration supporting it, have resided firmly in the corporeal world.  Patients seeking an appointment would either phone the practice or book in person, whilst prescriptions may have been handwritten or printed, and exchanged with a pharmacist. There have been some aspects of digitisation, such as the emailing of information related to a specific condition for example, but these are all disjointed episodes within a patient’s care.   

The digital front door imagines a gateway to one’s healthcare services, whereby such services are brought into a digital user interface that can be accessed with ease. This could be delivered in a variety of ways, such as mobile applications, web portals, or even augmented reality. 

The goal is to create a seamless user experience, facilitating digital interactions between payers, providers, and patients throughout each stage of the healthcare process. Powered by myriad digital touchpoints, patients are thereby empowered to engage more deeply with their healthcare journey and afforded greater access to healthcare professionals throughout. 

As an example, a patient may wish to book their own appointment online by accessing their doctor’s diary and selecting a slot that suits their schedule. This alleviates the provider’s administrative burden and sidesteps the lengthy queues witnessed in booking appointments over the phone. 

Ultimately, the digital front door improves efficiencies at both ends of the healthcare spectrum, removing unnecessary layers of interaction and enhancing the patient’s overall experience.  

How the pandemic changed healthcare. 

Prior to the pandemic, patients were divided as to their preferred methods of accessing healthcare. Naturally, millennials had been quicker to adopt the ‘digital first’ model, whereas older generations had been more resistant, preferring to see a specific clinician whom they already knew and trusted. However, the severity of the virus led to radical changes in procedure, as patients were forced to move online in a bid to stem the spread of infections. 

This necessitated the adoption of digitisation and accelerated progress exponentially, with two years’ worth of Healthcare Digital Transformation (DX) achieved within the first two months of the pandemic [1]

As with other aspects of lockdown living, patients adapted. For example, in the UK, almost all primary care consultations became digital-first, meaning patients had to engage via a digital front door [1]. In the US, data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) showed that 83.9% of circa 1,500 survey respondents had undertaken their first virtual visit from a clinician, and one in five had downloaded a virtual care application in advance of needing it [2]. In addition, 72.5% of those surveyed had used a front-end conversational AI chatbot or symptom checker.

This demonstrates not only the patients’ willingness to embrace digitisation, but also the increased agency afforded by making information more accessible via an online environment. Further data from the IDC predicts that by 2023, 65 percent of patients will have accessed care through a digital front door. 

Reimagining the Digital Front Door?

Though the pandemic accelerated the healthcare industry’s move to digital, the potential of the digital front door has only been partially realised. 

A separate survey taken by the IDC during the initial wave of the virus highlighted that 93.5% of healthcare organisations were still investing in DX initiatives to close technology gaps (41.4%), mitigate the impact of the recession (21.5%), take greater market share (15.9%), and introduce disruptive new business models (14.7%) [1]

The direction of travel is clear, however, it’s worth noting that much of 41.4% allocated towards closing technology gaps is centred around legacy technologies and processes, which can take time to unpick. 

Monstarlab are sympathetic to these systems and the challenges involved in upgrading them, which is why our Discovery Process is vital in optimising each relationship.  During this process, our team integrates with the client in order to fully understand the processes, culture and client needs, before mapping a route to digitisation tailored to their firm’s specific requirements. 

It’s through this procedure that we can help firms reimagine their digital front door beyond its existing structure and create a pathway to what we like to call the Digital Canvas. 

We wish to prevent the current set of digital front doors from working in siloes across organisations. We also apply our customer-experience lens to ensure that the canvas provides a sustainable growth framework for health providers to plug and play componentry through buy or build decisions based on the current maturity within the organisation.

So what lies beyond? The Digital Canvas.

While many healthcare organisations have augmented their telehealth capabilities throughout the pandemic, it’s important to continue building out these virtual channels, given how eagerly patients have adopted them. Any digital front door must lead to a rich ecosystem of well-integrated, patient-centred, experiences. 

We refer to this destination as The Digital Canvas, which we define as interconnecting technologies that have the optimal confluence for positive human-centric experiences that transform health and wellbeing. 

But how does it work in practice?

As shown in figure 1 below, the average healthcare system will have multiple digital front doors — from physical facilities that capture patient data electronically to video consults and apps. Regardless of which doorway a patient first enters, any doorways they access should recognise them, anticipate their needs, offer a personalised experience, and collect and share data to continuously improve that experience. 

Figure 1: The Digital Canvas

The digital channels that have come into vogue during the pandemic, from Deliveroo to Disney Plus, each share the same sensibilities around personalisation and user experience. Each digital canvas should operate in the same way, recognising the individual and providing data and guidance specific to them.

Our commitment to you:

At Monstarlab, we will work with you to:

  1. Reimagine how you entice, enter, engage, exit, and extend health and well-being experiences, unlock new possibilities to drive loyalty and growth, reduce costs and delays, and improve health outcomes
  2. Adopt a platform and ecosystem mindset that allow embracing of purposeful partnerships; this allows the natural shift from transactional encounters to a series of connected, meaningful interactions
  3. Stitch together a series of connected interactions across a single health journey or a lifetime of health and well-being pursuits to ensure you have clean, well-structured and easily consumable data from a variety of clinical and non-clinical sources
  4. Ensure that your digital canvas is congruent with your wider digital and data strategy
  5. Enable your workforce to be an integral driver of the seamless patient and staff experience provided through the canvas.


Our team at Monstarlab are well-positioned to assist with this and are excited about guiding more firms beyond the digital front door, to where borderless, clinician-citizen partnerships await.

Get in touch today, our experts are here to help:

Sukhmeet Panesar
Chief Health Officer
Monstarlab
sukhmeet.panesar@monstar-lab.com

Gary McClen
UK Engagement Manager
Monstarlab
gary.mcclen@monstar-lab.com

Alex Holdsworth
Executive Strategy Director
Monstarlab
alexander.holdsworth@monstar-lab.com


References:

  1. Shegewi, M. 2022. The Digital Front Door \ IDC Blog. [online]. Blogs.idc.com. Available at: <https://blogs.idc.com/2021/05/18/the-digital-front-door/>
  2. NHS England, 2022. Digital First Primary Care. [online]. England.nhs.uk. Available at <https://www.england.nhs.uk/gp/digital-first-primary-care/>

Related content: 

Private Healthcare Report 2022: Great Outcomes through Digital Transformation

Humanity-focused Healthcare: Let’s Achieve it Together.

About Monstarlab 

Monstarlab is a digital experience partner focused on accelerating growth for ambitious clients. We achieve this through our human-centred design and engineering expertise, our open partnership approach and our extensive network of global talent. 

©2022 Monstarlab. All Rights Reserved

Author

Sukhmeet Panesar

Sukhmeet Panesar

Chief Health Officer


Suki is our Chief Health Officer at Monstarlab. He trained as a clinician in emergency medicine and public health and is widely published in the field of health services research, specifically patient safety and health system redesign. Most recently, he has led digital transformation across a large group of 600+ individuals across the disciplines of data and analytics. He has a keen focus on developing the workforce to meet the challenges of tomorrow, and leads a pan-UK endeavour that brings together 16,500 data professionals and analysts called AnalystX.

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