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As COVID-19 precautions dwindle to nothing, patient wait times explode.
As COVID-19 descended upon unsuspecting communities, businesses, schools, all non-essential services closed down and sought sanctuary. Most surgeries, medical procedures, and appointments were halted and indefinitely delayed or even closed. Options became extremely limited—at times nonexistent—and many were left with no recourse on where to find answers to health concerns.
Once the quarantine cover was lifted, life began its slow crawl to the slightest sense of normalcy. An unexpected consequence was the cumbersome and lengthy wait times felt in clinics and doctor’s offices. Not only were patients faced with the threat of a global pandemic, but they also had to deal with the fact that the protracted time needed to schedule and secure medical care was an added obstacle. To add, the health care worker shortage continued, overworked staff and stretched-thin resources carried on past the pandemic and burdened physicians and all related medical staff.
Regardless of whether a patient's needs are considered essential or non-essential, access to health information—timely and accurate—is something everyone seeking medical care should have access to.
It's not uncommon for the Internet to be a source patients use to try to figure out what their symptoms might mean. That can be a slippery slope and lead to rabbit holes of unaccredited “licensed” experts, incomplete information, and chatroom diagnoses.
The solution, hands down, is giving patients access to a digital front door. It eliminates hurdles to medical care by streamlining a typically complex process into a patient-centered and accommodating online experience. This innovative technology gives patients the convenience and accessibility patients need, without the long wait times and hurdles that can come with trying to get in touch with healthcare providers.
Digital health tools allow patients access to accurate, evidence-based content focused on their medical needs in a convenient and integrated online environment—similar to a customary web search, but, in this case, for a personal and health-related need.
This is about patients saving time and money, having quick access to medical and behavioral health providers, getting prescriptions sent quicker, streamlining scheduling, accessing medical information, and ultimately having a higher-quality healthcare experience.
More than a front door
While the term front door to some means only a physical door—digital in this case—that is missing a much larger opportunity. Some digital front doors enable a more comprehensive solution. Combining the right technology, people and process allows for whole-person care to be delivered. For example, digital front door solutions that create readmission programs, health risk assessment/Gap closure programs, integrated after-hours telehealth solutions, and seamless connections between payers and providers are all ways that digital front doors can provide a more complete solution.
Some benefits include:
One of the most important things a healthcare provider can give a patient is convenience. Between work and families, patients often find themselves needing to seek care outside the "normal" timeframe. A digital front door gives patients access to care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, via phone, desktop, or mobile app. Patient self-determination stands front and center as an available benefit.
Providers and payers all need to work together to make healthcare more affordable. When you build the right front door solution it will create cost savings. Ensuring patients get the right care, at the right time, for the right price is essential. If you are able to make the right decision as early as possible with any given patient and then either solve their problem or guide them to the most appropriate next step, with the least amount of friction. You are able to achieve savings that actually improve quality and patient experience.
2. Quick-access response
Digital front doors allow for immediate care and communication with a specialist, some digital front doors even provide triage. This ensures a quick response, correct treatment from the right type of provider or specialist, and makes available the necessary data to a patient’s provider—all of which help reduce costs and provide a higher-quality experience, and every data point streamed through a single point of engagement.
Take, for example, a serious condition afflicting a particular patient: shortness of breath, aches and pains, fever, or even cardiovascular issues affecting blood pressure and coronary health. This kind of direct connection allows physicians to identify these symptoms, segment them according to their ailment, immediately examine the medical history, perform necessary protocols for any and all medical diagnoses, and then direct the patient to the type of care that they need – whether done virtually or in-person – to get treated.
3. Direct access to doctors
Patients get prompt access – sometimes within minutes - to physicians, who can respond on the platform each patient is utilizing. The provider can offer a diagnosis, a treatment plan, and begin prescription fulfillment. With patients able to connect and receive vital care in this way, it avoids excessive amounts of time, resources, and money on unneeded trips to clinics, hospitals, and urgent care centers.
4. Patient re-engagement
Over the last few years, as people might have found it difficult to find the medical care they needed, many have put it off altogether, frustrated at the numerous systematic roadblocks. This is especially concerning for those who have chronic conditions. A digital front door is a perfect platform—and opportunity—to re-engage patients and get them back on track with preventative and continuing care.
5. Enhances the patient’s experience as a whole
Digital front doors offer patients a space to experience independence, empowerment, and autonomy to access personalized care at their convenience. This emancipation from rigidity and structured agency, allows patients to be proactive in their care, they will be more likely to pay attention to potential warnings and give attention to potential health risks and hazards. Most important, early detection of possible health threats gives space for treatment and remedy before it can become a serious issue.
Overall, access to digital care supplies seamless connections between patients and their physicians, clinics, and provider networks. Innovative technology builds trust and spurs confidence that patients can access care when needed—anytime for any issue—and receive targeted, informed, and rapid treatment.
Keith Algozzine is co-founder and CEO of UCM Digital Health. A board-certified Physician Assistant, he was formerly the Chief PA of Emergency Medicine for St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy, NY, where he witnessed firsthand the challenges of the modern healthcare system. Keith was also part of the national ER startup management team for Pegasus Emergency Medicine. He represents UCM Digital Health on the American Telemedicine Association Accreditation Advisory Board and serves as an advisor to the Clinical Practice Guidelines Committees dealing with telemedicine considerations for urgent and emergency care.