Open the Doors Wide: Why health systems’ digital front doors will be the primary difference-maker in this next wave of change


Question: When are websites and mobile experiences much more than that? Answer: When they have the potential to keep you from losing 1 to 3 percentage points of commercial market share.

That idea set urgency for attention and action, as executive leaders from 27 health systems gathered with AVIA for the launch of the Digital Front Door initiative—collaborative work designed to help health systems stay on the winning side of unstoppable consumer trends. Together, these health systems have the power to create a standard for digital experiences, one that includes meaningful interactions and easy transactions between providers and patients.

Here we offer four takeaways from the two-day launch event:

1. The threats are real; they’re large; they’re closer than many realize.
When you’re in an entrenched, complex industry like healthcare, the constant cries of “Disruption!” start to become little more than background noise. Incumbent health systems have survived waves of change before. Health systems that have always been the only major providers in their regions have relied on geography as insulation against significant attacks. Meanwhile, in more competitive markets, the strong have gotten stronger. The large have gotten larger.

Why is this particular warning of disruption worth heeding? One reason is the source of the threats. Amazon, Apple, Alphabet … all of them view healthcare as a $3.5 trillion domestic market that’s ripe for new ideas, new entrants, new avenues for service delivery. But it’s obviously not just those companies. It’s also CVS Health, Optum, 98point6, Lemonaid Health … the list goes on and on. Hundreds of companies looking to take chunks from what has historically been your patient volume, your revenue streams. And increasingly, they’re succeeding at it, due in part to their ability to capitalize on the shifts in consumer mindsets.

According to results from a study conducted in partnership with the Urgent Care Association of America, less than 50% of Americans use their PCP as the first step in finding care. This number drops to 36% for Americans under the age of 45. Increasingly, convenience and cost of care takes precedence over depth of patient/provider relationships. Fewer than 6 in 10 consumers even have a preferred primary care physician that they use for all care — the remainder have adopted a shopper mentality for their day-to-day care needs.

The chilling reality is that all of this added up could easily result in a significant dip in commercial market share for health systems that don’t take bold action.

2. Half-prepared is unprepared.
It’s definitely not breaking news to point at companies like Amazon or CVS Health as potential, imminent disruptors in healthcare. That said, it seems strange to see how many health systems accept this as undeniable truth … and simultaneously, how few health systems have taken comprehensive action to prepare for it.

All 27 health systems that participated in AVIA’s Digital Front Door initiative launch have taken some action toward creating a digital experience that enables interaction and engagement—everything from making themselves more visible in Google search results to facilitating virtual visits. The challenge is that the vast majority of health systems have built their spectrum of consumer-facing digital capabilities without the benefit of being able to invest in a holistic, seamless user experience. So the result is that consumers access one solution (and user experience) for provider search, another solution (and another user experience) for patient billing and finance, another for scheduling. It’s unfair to compare this to the massive investment, expertise, and execution that a company like Apple brings to its user experience … and yet that’s exactly what consumers will do as more Apple-like healthcare experiences enter the market.

To compete, protect their market share, build deeper patient engagement and loyalty to drive growth, health systems must turn their focus on creating an integrated, transaction-ready experience across seven capabilities that comprise their digital front door: Provider Directory, Provider Search, Transparency, Consumer Scheduling, Triage, Care Navigation, Virtual Visits.

When executed well—and connected seamlessly to one another—these are the fundamental digital levers that can have the most significant impact on patient volume, market share, wallet share, and total revenue.

3. There’s a real path to win …
“How do I know when I’ve gotten to good in each area? Knowing that I need to take action quickly, what represents transaction-ready in each of these seven capabilities?” AVIA  heard versions of these questions over and over again at the Digital Front Door initiative launch. Health system leaders in attendance were eager to understand the playbook for how to take action … and how to reconcile recommended action with solutions already implemented and investments already made.

Fortunately, AVIA has the answer key. Through our work with health systems over the past five years, we’ve seen what good/better/best looks like for each capability that comprises the digital front door. We understand digital solution selection criteria, conditions of success, business case creation, KPIs, and  implementation strategies that enable health systems to accelerate and de-risk their digital front door investments.

For example, with virtual visits, we know what factors matter most and produce the most significant return for health systems — factors that include number of modalities, patient history integration, benefit check and claims generation, prescription and lab ordering, and automated follow-up. Using these criteria, health systems can then make more informed decisions on which solutions can produce the most effective, most seamless experience for their patients.

4. … And winning might take several forms
Winning in this scenario could mean a few things. In the traditional sense, winning represents retained market share, new avenues for growth, enhanced recognition as the community’s health hub. In the non-traditional sense, winning could include a world where health systems are the healthcare service delivery mechanisms for demand aggregators sprung forth from big tech (think: Uber or AirBnb, but for health services) or from more conventional sources (think: large employers/employer-funded insurance plans).

Ultimately, winning really means having greater control over your own future in digital — as a health system, you can opt in or opt out of what platforms emerge, but you should be able to make the choice vs. having the choice made for you.

Learn more about future-proofing your health system by committing your organization to this work. Click here to reach out today.