3 Keys to Unlock Healthcare’s Digital Front Door

The digital front door has become the common name in the healthcare industry for a mobile website or application that unifies the patient experience and connects patients to care across the continuum.  

In short, a digital front door connects and scales the virtual care journey to give patients what they need, when they need it. 

The trend toward self-service in healthcare was already underway when COVID hit, and the pandemic sharply accelerated the demand for digital access to healthcare information. Appointment scheduling is one important aspect of a digital front door experience, and studies find that 40% of appointments are booked after business hours, and 67% of patients prefer online booking. Further, $150 billion annually is estimated as the annual loss from missed medical appointments. (source

Some of our company’s earliest and most enduring clients have been healthcare organizations, and we’ve noticed three keys to success when developing and deploying a digital front door.  

Key to success: Get the right stakeholders involved 

“This is more than a digital shift – the shift to a digital front door requires a culture shift within the organization,” says Yuri Brigance, Valence’s director of software engineering. 

Experience has taught us that having the right people in the room can make all the difference in the success or failure of a major initiative. Especially considering the role that change management plays here – People don’t resist change, they resist being changed. So you need to engage stakeholders from all impacted groups, from frontline workers to back-office operations. This will improve requirements documentation, roadmap planning, and buy-in as the work rolls out. 

 Key to success: Users Drive the Design Strategy 

“While a digital front door is a technology solution, it’s ultimately about humanizing the patient experience,” says Sam To, designer at Valence. 

In the case of a digital front door, the users may be patients, families of patients, or healthcare providers. In nearly all scenarios, people value products that are easy to use, simple to set up, and have a logical progression. This is especially true in a healthcare situation, which may be hypercharged by personal and situational stressors.  

Equitable design should be at the forefront of design decisions because the healthcare organization needs to design for a wide array of users and needs. You can read more about our approach to equitable design here

The design phase of the digital front door project should include user interviews, feedback sessions, prototyping, and more. Giving the UX design team access to users early in the process can help to identify the best-case rollout strategy, reveal opportunities to differentiate from competitors, and deliver precisely the right content to users when they need it – all leading to better patient satisfaction scores. 

Key to success: Develop a feature roadmap and strategy for rolling out updates 

“When embarking on a digital effort in healthcare, it’s important to start by understanding which changes you need to see in the organization. Are you pursuing improved patient satisfaction scores? Physician satisfaction? ED/Urgent Care wait times? Quality and safety scores? Each area targeted for improvement may influence priorities differently,” says Malia Jacobson, healthcare content strategist at Valence. 

Many healthcare providers are leaning into digital solutions to address patient satisfaction, reduce service demand, and reduce administrative overhead. In addition to standard features of a digital front door experience, providers should consider designing for experiences such as:  

  • Bill pay 
  • Self-scheduling and care coordination 
  • Provider communication 
  • Information libraries 
  • Find a provider 
  • Imaging library 
  • Patient outreach 
  • Capacity management 
  • Census management 
  • Forecasting 
  • Infectious disease tracking 
  • Discharge planning 
  • Privacy and security to safeguard patient data 
  • Strategies to increase adoption, such as gamification and push notifications 
  • Support for population health initiatives 
  • Analytics and insights to derive more value from data 
  • AI features, such as chatbots, to reduce clinical burden and improve patient flow 
  • Support for healthcare information exchange in compliance with FHIR standards and best practices. 

It’s important to understand how these features interplay as part of a big picture roadmap with a rollout timeline and strategy. You don’t have to release everything at one time to be successful, and adding features as the platform develops and collects user feedback will future-proof the effort. 

In closing, healthcare has always been heavily impacted by technology, but the patient experience lagged behind other healthcare innovations. That is changing. 

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5 Ways to Build Digital Trust

By Malia Jacobson

Combating online misinformation and building digital trust are increasingly important for organizations doing business online. Here are a few ways that our developers and content producers work together to improve access to reliable, trustworthy content for our clients.​

digital trust

The Internet is filled with impressive technology platforms that we use every day. But should we trust their content? For years, content platforms evolved to focus on the technology itself, not the content within. The result: Wary consumers who distrust much of what they read online. False online information costs the global economy $78 billion each year, and three-quarters of Americans believe online misinformation is a big problem. Let’s not forget the “infodemic” of public health misinformation that researchers believe contributed to the spread of COVID-19. 

Per the International Data Corporation (IDC), false information destroys the trust that fuels our digital economy. Simply put, if website visitors don’t trust your organization’s digital content, they won’t stick around long enough to become a customer.

Organizations can win and keep users’ trust by creating trustworthy, reliable content. How? As developers and content producers, we help organizations improve content quality, clarity, and accuracy with these steps.

1. Include content producers and stakeholders in platform design.

At the beginning of a project, bring stakeholders, content producers, and developers together to identify the platform’s key audiences, desired user experience (UX), and the internal process through which content will be vetted, approved, moved through QA, and posted. Defining a process to validate and approve content prior to publication helps inform the development of the right back-end content management system. This ensures that the finished platform supports the publication of content that’s worthy of users’ time—and trust.

2. Help organizations use and optimize owned media channels.

An organization’s digital marketing efforts include paid, earned, shared, and owned media channels—the organization’s own website, blog, and other outlets within its control. While earned media (press mentions) and shared media (social shares) are exciting, many organizations learn the hard way that information published on external media platforms isn’t always accurate, and fighting misinformation is a draining, costly battle. Organizations with robust owned media channels can build and keep digital trust by carefully and consistently publishing reliable, accurate content on their own platforms to serve as a source of truth for users.

3. Address racial and gender bias in content platform design.

Poor platform design can invite discrimination and reduce the integrity of digital content. Take AirBnB’s efforts to create a more transparent platform by removing anonymity for both guests and hosts during the booking process. Researchers found that revealing a potential guest’s photo before a booking request was accepted allowed hosts to discriminate based on race. To create more equitable, trustworthy, transparent platforms, consider withholding sensitive information that could enable discrimination; build awareness of algorithmic bias; and measure the effectiveness of different platform design choices. (Find more information here: Harvard Business School: How Online Platforms Can Thwart Discrimination.) 

4. Bridge language barriers.

Online misinformation disproportionately targets users with language and learning differences. Organizations can work to combat online misinformation by using plain language online and addressing language barriers by integrating language translation APIs like Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, and Smartling

5. Make digital content user-friendly.

The most sophisticated platform will inhibit trust if users can’t follow along. We learned how this is especially critical for healthcare organizations, public agencies, and firms operating in the health and wellness industry during the COVID pandemic. Creating platforms that support user-friendly visual aids, symbols, and a clear pathway through complex topics helps users find and understand reliable, trustworthy information they need.

Prioritizing content quality and accuracy may be new for organizations used to focusing on platform design. But when content producers and developers work together to publish trustworthy, reliable content, organizations and their audiences win. 

Additional resources:

14 Ways to Design and Develop a More Sustainable Website

By Deborah Keltner

Sustainable Website

Could you have a more sustainable website?

While the shift from analog to digital content has kept trees out of paper mills, it has undoubtedly contributed to the climate crisis because of the carbon footprint of technology. Whether it’s e-waste or energy needed for computing, the tech sector has a huge opportunity to lessen its impact on our earth’s climate.

We need to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century to keep the global temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius. You can learn more about Earth Day and its supporting events & initiatives here.

In honor of Earth Day, we are sharing a list of ideas, tips, tricks, and insights to help website designers and developers deliver more sustainable websites. We are still learning more about how to deliver more sustainable technologies, so if you have additional tips and tricks, we want to hear from you!

Let’s get started!

You are reading this on the internet! Did you know that the use of the internet alone causes emissions of approximately 2,330,000 tons of carbon and consumes 2,340,000 MWh of electricity every day? If you found this article via a web search, your search consumed about 0.3 Wh of energy and released 0.2g of carbon into the environment. It’s not much on its own, but it adds up.

Do you want to reduce your website’s carbon emissions?

Did you know: Offsetting the carbon from our website requires the work of 12 trees every year.

You can reduce the carbon emissions associated with your website by reducing the amount of electricity used to load, send, and view a web page, and then ensuring the resulting electricity required to access and use the site comes from clean, renewable resources. 

Designers and developers have a lot of influence over the energy efficiency of the websites they design and create. Here are 14 tips for you to design and develop a greener an more sustainable website:

  1. Get rid of unnecessary code, which uses computing power without benefiting users. If you have large blocks of commented-out code, don’t let it slip into production. Keep code clean and simple, avoid duplication and write efficient queries. This doesn’t just apply to the code you write, but also to the code you borrow. If you use existing frameworks and libraries, ensure that they are also refined and tailored to efficiently deliver the functionality you need and that you are not using over-built code. In cases where you are using a CMS like WordPress, avoid unnecessary plugins that add bloat and choose plugins that minimize server load and don’t add unnecessary weight on the front end.
  2. Use compression. Some compression techniques can save data without compromising quality.
  3. Consider programming language efficiency when choosing between programming languages. Less efficient languages have a higher carbon footprint.
  4. Run computations on the server side. Data centers are more efficient than end-user devices.
  5. Choose green cloud vendors. Ask whether your cloud provider uses sustainable energy sources.
  6. Keep digital efficiency top-of-mind. Every day is Earth Day when you are prioritizing energy-efficient decisions. Our site is run on renewable energy, which helps offset our impact.
  7. The goals of SEO are aligned with the goal of reducing energy consumption. When optimizing a website for search rankings, we help people find the information they want quickly and easily. When SEO is successful, people spend less time looking for information and visiting fewer pages that don’t meet their needs. This means less energy is consumed and the energy that is consumed is used to deliver value to the user.
  8. Copywriting also impacts the amount of time people spend browsing your site. We don’t want people to waste time sifting through content that offers them little value, so clear and efficient copy can reduce wasted time and in turn reduce wasted energy.
  9. Good user experience makes using the web easier and reduces the amount of energy wasted navigating to pages that don’t serve the correct purpose and trying to decipher what they should do next. Obviously, our UX Design team is here to help!
  10. On most websites, images are the single largest contributor to page weight. The more images you use and the larger those image files, the more data needs to be transferred and the more energy is used. Regardless of any technical optimizations, designers and content creators should think carefully about their use of images.
    • Does the image genuinely add value to the user?
    • Does it communicate useful information?
    • Could the same impact be achieved if the image was smaller?
    • Could we reduce images that are not visible to the user, such as in carousels?
    • Could we achieve the same effect with a vector graphic (or even CSS style) instead of a photo?
  11. Video is the most data and processing intensive form of content. As with images, ask yourself if videos are necessary. If they are, reduce the amount of video streamed by removing auto-play from videos and by keeping video content short. A website with video playing can be one or even two orders of magnitude heavier than a website without video in terms of page weight and creates much higher load on the users CPU, resulting in vastly greater energy consumption.
  12. Web fonts can add significant file weight to the websites on which they are used. A single font file could be as much as 250kb, and that might only be for the standard weight. If you want bold, add another 250kb. To reduce the impact on custom web fonts, designers should consider the following options: Use system fonts where possible. Fonts like Arial and Times New Roman can be used without loading any font files at all as they are already on the user’s device, and try to be frugal in the number of typefaces you choose and in the number of different weights that you use for each typeface.
  13. Build static web pages. CMS-powered websites make queries to the website database and dynamically generate pages, so the webserver has to do work thinking about what information to send back to the user each time someone tries to load a page. That causes the server to use more energy. In some cases, it may be possible to simply server static web pages with no database at all by writing the web pages as static files in HTML, CSS, and JS, or by using a static site generator or specialist static web host to convert your CMS-powered website into static files.
  14. Consider reducing white space and embracing dark mode. Dark websites were one of the first techniques popularized for saving energy on websites many years ago and it faded away with the advent of LCD screens, which had a permanent backlight, using the same energy regardless of the color actually visible on the screen. However, with the advent of OLED screens that light up each pixel individually, using darker colors is once again a viable technique to reduce energy on end-user devices.

If you’d like to estimate the carbon footprint of your website, this tool is easy to use. In fact, it’s how we learned that our website needs improvement (we’re currently running dirtier than 78% of similar websites and producing 2.14g of carbon every time someone visits our site). https://www.websitecarbon.com/.

You may not be able to do every single one of these things, but every action you take to produce a sustainable website adds up, so lean into greener design and engineering on Earth Day and every day!

Additional resources: