It’s Time to Reevaluate Healthcare’s Approach to the Digital Front Door 

Updated on July 3, 2024
Female doctor is using a digital tablet in her work. The Digital Hospital, with new and modern resources and easy access to the important information about the patients, test results and patient registration

The right mobile-health technology platform should swing open a healthcare system’s digital front door and deliver a unified, seamless experience. 

Most health systems scrambled to put together a digital presence when the pandemic necessitated the move toward virtual care and automated customer service and communications. Unfortunately, in the hustle to create a digital presence, considerations of the user experience were often overlooked or ignored. As a result, disjointed user experiences remain a pain point for most health systems—and they’re a significant detriment to consumer loyalty.

In 2024, healthcare providers offer too many digital tools across too many platforms and continue to emphasize web-based offerings over mobile solutions, which are preferred by patients. In this environment, surveys like this one show that platform overload is real, and it’s contributing to a fractured, and ultimately poor, end-user experience. 

What patients crave is a new kind of digital front door, one that meets their expectations of a unified healthcare experience that’s accessible and personalized and made available via the problem-solving companion they use most—their smartphone. That’s why it’s so critical that health systems roll out the right mobile-health technology platform.

Going Digital

As many as 96% of young adults and 61% of seniors own a smartphone. But the design of most mobile apps is too basic, with no compelling feature sets to drive re-use. This leads to poor engagement and retention metrics. According to one estimation, 24% of apps are dropped after a single use, and 80% are dropped after just three months.

Health systems won’t achieve the level of mobile engagement they seek with “standard” apps that offer a standalone benefit. What’s needed is an application that provides four or more key benefits delivered in a unified package. This approach has been found time and again to drive users to engage repeatedly at multiple points along their patient journey.  

A 2023 Gozio consumer survey revealed that most users prefer mobile apps that offer a unified experience. Two-thirds of Gen Z respondents said the ability to manage healthcare through a single platform, website, or mobile app, is “extremely important,” along with 70% of millennials, 53% of Gen Xers, and 52% of Baby Boomer respondents.

However, not enough providers seem to be touting that unified approach. CIOs report offering over 40 different patient engagement tools for patients per health system, many of which are point solutions. Moreover, many patients say they don’t have access to as many digital features as their health system claims to offer. And while two-thirds of patients say they try to interact via mobile, most healthcare providers still lean heavily on web-based experiences. 

While this could be due to a lack of secure-yet-compelling mobile interfaces for applications such as SMS, the net effect is that patients suffer. When providers do lean into mobile applications, their approach continues to be fragmented, with half of patients saying they use two or more systems to connect with their provider rather than a single platform that can frictionlessly connect them with all of a health system’s digital services. 

Building a Digital Front Door

Based on the Gozio survey findings, it’s clear consumers expect excellence. But creating the perfect digital front door—one that optimizes the patient journey at every touchpoint with a health system—can be challenging for a hospital or health system.

With that in mind, here are three best practices to consider when moving forward.

Put Everything in One Place

This may seem like a no-brainer, but the data shows that most health systems aren’t doing this today, and patients are frustrated. Creating a single platform that is accessible through a native mobile experience is not only a better experience for patients, but it can also help boost adoption of digital health technologies.

Point solutions see lower reuse rates than a branded health system app that houses all the patient-facing features in one place. The Office for the National Coordinator of Health IT recently released data on patient portal adoption and usage that shows the reuse rate hasn’t gone higher than 30%. Health systems like Piedmont Healthcare and WakeMed Health & Hospitals use branded mobile native apps that bring all their patient-facing solutions together in one place. They have hundreds of thousands of downloads and reuse rates of 70%-80%.

Focus on Adaptability

Healthcare embodies the axiom that the only constant is change. A robust digital front door is one that accounts for the fact that technology changes, a healthcare organization’s goals change, and patient needs and preferences change. Your mobile offering needs to have the flexibility to change in response. Choose a platform that allows you to easily plug in the point solutions you have today, add or change solutions over time, and adapt the design to continually improve the user experience. Creative use of cloud capabilities often enables the best solutions to enact these adaptations without requiring a code update to the mobile application.

Align Mobile Offerings with Your Organization’s Broader Goals and Culture

Usage will likely be the early measure of success for your digital front door, but what’s successful long term is that the design of your digital front door must contribute directly to meeting your larger organizational goals. Is your priority improving patient access? Or reducing call center volume? Are you looking for ways also improve the staff experience? Think about your organizational goals and how your mobile app can help address them.

Health systems need to ensure their digital front door is the onramp to the best possible experience and welcomes patients, families, and staff to engage. While every organization is different, what patients want—a unified, simplified, and engaging digital experience—is universal. 

Joshua Titus
Joshua Titus
CEO and Founder at Gozio Health

Joshua Titus is CEO and founder of Gozio Health.