3 Keys to Unlock Healthcare’s Digital Front Door

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. 

Additional Resources: 

Voice and Chat: Cornerstones of Digital Transformation

Voice and Chat: Cornerstones of Digital Transformation

We are excited to announce today the release of two new innovation programs related to voice and chat technologies! The two releases include the Healthcare Experience Innovation Accelerator as well as an internal, employee-focused “voice bot” framework based on Amazon Alexa for Business technologies.

Our Healthcare Experience Innovation Accelerator is focused on accelerating customer projects related to understanding and applying voice-related technologies, such as Microsoft Cortana and Amazon Alexa, in real-life healthcare situations. We have been exploring all the different natural language processing services that both Microsoft and Amazon are releasing at an increasingly rapid pace and wanted to apply them in a real-life scenario — one that we thought could stand a bit of fixing: healthcare information discovery, appointment scheduling, and patient processing. Don’t get us wrong — we know healthcare is complicated — but we are hoping our efforts perhaps spark some imaginations around the industry on what is possible.

Our framework builds on existing voice and chat technologies and adds some healthcare specific natural language experiences. This is the third Innovation Accelerator we have built, coming after the release of the HoloLens Innovation Accelerator this past May and the Blockchain Innovation Accelerator released this past July. Our Innovation Team is thinking daily about how to apply our pillars of digital transformation in new and exciting ways to help customers “jumpstart” real-life solutions.

Today we also released our employee-focused voice skill called “Valence Bot”. When you start at Valence, you are given an Echo Dot as one part of your onboarding hardware package — right alongside your computer. We use the Amazon Alexa for Business platform and have built a private enterprise skill to provide access via voice commands to all the corporate information an employee needs to get their job done, including human resources information (benefits, employee count, and more) as well as access to corporate systems like IT requests, CRM data, and more. If you want to see more, you can find details in the video we made for the Amazon Alexa for Business “This is My Skill” showcase.

Additional Resources:

Using Data to Improve Patient Outcomes

Using Data to Improve Patient Outcomes

Can predictive analytics in healthcare change patient outcomes?

It’s no secret that technology is making its mark in the healthcare industry. From surgery rooms to at-home care, technology is being applied in ways that only push healthcare forward. Within the past year, companies such as Google and Microsoft have begun stepping into the healthcare field. And it doesn’t stop there, hospitals such as Johns Hopkins have also joined the movement. But why now?

At Valence we’ve seen first-hand what technology can bring to the table for a patient’s care. Whether it’s pain management through Virtual Reality, training for medical professionals, or quicker EMR workflows, technology has solved many pain points for the healthcare industry and there are no signs of slowing down. Over the years, healthcare has shifted to a more predictive approach. With this perspective doctors can focus on preventive measures with a goal of fewer hospital trips and better long-term care for the patient. This new approach has only been made possible by the large amount of data available at our fingertips and the birth of predictive analytics.

Let’s talk about predictive analytics in healthcare.

Predictive analytics in healthcare uses data to help predicate outcomes. Whether it’s for healthcare or environmental purposes there is one common goal: to prevent negative outcomes. This approach is extremely powerful, but there is an existing technology that can take it further, Artificial Intelligence. By merging the two we can truly harness the power of data to improve people’s health.

Today, artificial intelligence is being used to help doctors diagnose patients. Drawing from a patient’s family history or medical images, AI can be applied in different scenarios. For example, an artificial intelligence diagnostic device is helping doctor’s diagnosis patients with a specific eye disease. Just by uploading a high-resolution picture, this device can take the image and interpret results on its own. While artificial intelligence can assist with individual patients, the biggest advantage is its ability to operate with machine learning in which it can analyze a large amount of data, learn, and adapt. It can take data from thousands of patients, analyze their medical history, and make predictions on a much larger scale.

The integration of artificial intelligence and predictive analytics is transforming patient care on a small and large scale. It’s making value-based care attainable while keeping the patient at the heart of it all. At Valence we understand the technology of Machine Learning and the potential it will bring to your organization. Whether you are involved in healthcare, retail, manufacturing, or more, Artificial Intelligence can be applied to many industries. The time for artificial intelligence is now, so what will you do with it? Contact us, and we’ll start you off with a demo to show how remarkable this technology can be!

How about a Dose of Virtual Reality to Ease the Pain?

How about a Dose of Virtual Reality to Ease the Pain?

Virtual Reality and Pain Management

What role do technologies like virtual reality play in patient care for issues such as pain management?

I hate going to the dentist. That insidious high-pitched squeal sends shivers up my spine. The cold water they spray in your mouth makes my teeth ache. For me, it’s a guaranteed hour of incredible discomfort, stress, and pain — that kind of high-pitched pain that only happens when someone inserts sharp objects under the tender tissue at your gum line.

My dentist lets me watch Netflix, to distract me from the experience. But I can still see the razor-sharp instruments approaching out of the corner of my eye. Plus I hear everything going on around me. Including that insidious high-pitched squeal.

The good news is that there is a better way! Enter virtual reality for pain management. It turns out it can help with fear and anxiety, too.

Researchers have actually been studying this and conducting legitimate case-control studies that are getting published in medical journals. We’re seeing all sorts of collaborations between health plans or hospitals plus VR headset makers plus insurance companies plus digital tech firms and even pharmaceutical giants.

One intriguing experiment was done at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. It’s a major teaching hospital in a large urban area, so they get all sorts of patients coming through the door, from people having heart attacks to others limping in with broken bones. The idea was to compare how much pain in the hospital felt when they used immersive 3D VR goggles and headphones vs. watching 2D nature videos, which is one technique doctors use now to help calm and soothe patients and distract them from pain.

For anyone who has tried (and failed) to get kids away from a video game to come to dinner, it’s probably not a huge surprise that the patients in the VR group became fully immersed in the virtual world.

But the statistical results were really impressive: The VR folks experienced a roughly 25% drop in pain levels, plus twice the pain relief compared to the regular video watchers. Which is a big deal when you think about our current national crisis with opioid overuse and addiction.

Imagine if doctors could prescribe fantasy vs. fentanyl (meaning harmless VR sessions vs. dangerous, addictive drugs). The head researcher on this study, Brennan Spiegel, believes that this isn’t so far-fetched. He can picture a day when futuristic pharmacies might actually prescribe specialized VR to patients.

Why might this work? Spiegel says this: “The simplest theory is that it’s just distraction. It’s like shining a bright light right into the brain and almost overwhelming it with signals so it runs interference with the brain. Because the brain is so immersed in the experience, it’s unable to simultaneously process the pain signals coming from the body.”

The mechanism might be slightly different in helping people deal with anxiety vs. pain, but it seems to work, nonetheless. One study has focused on using VR to help veterans recover from PTSD by continually confronting the same event that traumatized them over and over again, this time from a safe vantage point in a virtual environment. With VR headsets, which they can borrow to do homework, patients can always just walk away if things get too intense. This allows PTSD survivors to focus on working through their trauma and anxiety in manageable baby steps.

The same applies to people with different kinds of fears and phobias. Right now therapists use exposure therapy to help people master phobias. Sufferers are exposed to the source of their fear, say spiders, in real life, over and over again. Eventually, over time, they get desensitized and lose their fear. With VR, therapists can expose people to a virtual fear-inducing environment, slowly increasing the spiders or darkness or height or whatever as the patient calms down (which is measured by tracking brain waves).

Imagine if you used these technologies but could then hook people up to a wearable device like an Apple watch or an iPhone to detect the brain waves, and enable patients to get real-time home-based biofeedback? It’s an intriguing idea and a real possibility given how accessible and affordable today’s digital tools have become.

This is the kind of innovation that is transforming patient care, improving outcomes, and reducing costs, while also generating troves of valuable data. That’s what our team at Valence is about, and it’s what we offer our healthcare clients, as well.

At Valence, we can add augmented reality or virtual reality experiences for our clients and let them collect and view real-time patient data at the same time. It’s exciting to imagine the possibilities. Interested in hearing more? Contact us, and we’ll start you off with a demo, to show how remarkable this technology can be!

AR in Healthcare? It’s Already Here

Augmented Reality in Healthcare? It’s Already Here

Augmented Reality is increasingly showing up in healthcare settings.

It has not even been 125 years since the X-ray was discovered in a German physics lab. How is it possible that our visualization technology has leapt so far ahead that surgeons are practicing procedures using augmented reality (AR) and students are studying human anatomy with AR headsets at medical school?

The pace of discovery is so accelerated these days that it’s hard to keep up with the digital transformation of the healthcare industry. That’s in part because of widely available open source platforms that give everyone easy access to high-tech tools. Not every equipment lab, hospital, or healthcare company needs to program its own visualization algorithms or Natural Language Processing systems anymore. They can make use of tools that Google, Microsoft, and Amazon provide in the cloud.

There’s a ton of money going into these developments and enormous improvements in patient health outcomes and satisfaction at stake. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that Statista, a statistics portal that indexes 22,500 data sources, predicts AR and VR applications in healthcare will reach $5.1 billion by 2025.

Remember dissecting fetal pigs in anatomy class? Or the macabre stories told by friends in medical school about getting their first cadaver? Those may become as obsolete as bleeding patients with leeches to correct imbalances in bodily humors.

Right now, students at Case Western Reserve University are studying anatomy via an AR app that can be used with Microsoft’s Hololens. “HoloAnatomy” emerged out of the world’s first third-party medical app created for Hololens and was a collaborative effort between the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University.

The Cleveland Clinic is no stranger to firsts: It has ranked as the #1 healthcare center for heart health for 22 years in a row. Now with this foray into innovative technology development (and the tech definitely elicits gasps even from seasoned medical school professors) the clinic has established its reputation as a pioneer in the use and development of augmented reality in medicine.

AR is also making its way into the operating room. In Oslo, Norway, surgeons have teamed up with developers to stitch 2-D medical images into 3-D AR models to help plan and practice surgeries. Imagine having the chance to see an artery before you nick it. Or to visualize the full extent of a tumor, so you don’t need to excise unnecessary tissue. According to Bjørn Edwin, surgeon at Oslo University Hospital, leaving more of healthy liver tissue intact during liver cancer surgery helps patients outcomes by increasing their ability to withstand subsequent operations. Even better: it helps them heal faster.

Technology innovation in healthcare is not just bells and whistles. It’s transforming patient care and patient outcomes as well as teaching students better and faster. That’s what our team at Valence offers for our healthcare clients, as well.

At Valence, we have the capability and the expertise to add real-time data to augmented reality views of real patients in real time. Imagine the possibilities for your facility. Interested in hearing more? Contact us, and we’ll start you off with a demo, to show how remarkable this technology can be!