Vice President, Business Development

Healthcare Marketing Leaders: Invest in Your Digital Front Door

Hi, welcome. Right this way...

In an age of privacy-first and audience-centric trends, healthcare marketers are always facing waves of new challenges. Between adhering to various industry guidelines and healthcare laws, and a huge push toward consented data across the open web, healthcare marketers need to keep a real-time pulse on the performance of their approaches in order to stay on top of the unique challenges they face and drive long-term growth.

As we watched a pandemic disrupt the industry, healthcare organizations that historically focused on both call-in and walk-in patients had to face the digital age— likely before they were fully prepared. Throw in factors like industry-wide measures (such as HIPAA guidelines) and shifting privacy laws, and the pressure is on for healthcare brands to keep up digitally. Not only do these brands need to invest in digital experiences that center target audiences appropriately, but also prove the value of that investment. But, how do you identify the right choices to make when it comes to your tech stack? What will be your best ally in tackling the increasingly difficult task of managing a wide array of touchpoints in a cross-channel environment? The answer: You must invest in your digital front door.

What is Your Digital Front Door?

According to the Association of Healthcare Journalists, “A digital front door is a strategy healthcare institutions are employing to use technology to improve patient experiences and could be defined as ‘all the touchpoints where providers can digitally interact with patient experiences to drive better access, engagement, and experiences across the service continuum.’” 

It’s not a new concept by any means— but thanks to the after-effects of the pandemic, it’s now the new normal. A functional digital front door is intended to accommodate your audience’s intent the moment they approach you. Do they need a referral? Do they need quick answers to a billing question? Or, are they exploring the profiles of your specialists? In any case, this initial interaction with your digital presence is a critical moment in their journey with your organization, and it’s imperative that you get them to their intended destination.

We also know, as marketers and patients alike, that your digital front door will need to be able to triage visitors based on varying levels of urgency behind their needs.  Marketers are expected to deploy various tools— for example, mobile-friendly pages and site search bars— to reduce friction in user journeys, specifically for these visitors.

In short, your digital front door is about meeting audience members where they are most comfortable (using the technology they already use every day), all while exceeding their expectations for care. 

Why Your Digital Front Door Matters Now

Investing in your digital front door as a business tool is important, but not nearly as important as taking care of your community. Facing the current age of technology and automation, and finding ways to keep your organization up to speed technologically, will have a significant impact on patients’ lives: They’ll be able to find answers to their healthcare questions faster and with less confusion. This, in turn, helps maximize the way in which healthcare brands can positively affect the communities they serve.

In order to create a positive brand experience for your patients, you’ll want to focus on reducing friction in a personalized way. For example, 72% of medical groups expect patient demand for telehealth to stay the same or increase in 2023. And because optimized digital experiences for requesting information, purchasing products, or booking services are the gold standard in industries like ecommerce and consumer services, you can anticipate that consumers will demand the same experiences with your healthcare brand. Without this kind of interaction available and easily accessible, patients who prefer the convenience that digital healthcare resources offer may seek care elsewhere, or delay seeking medical services altogether. Your digital front door, therefore, isn’t there to just decrease friction: It’s also there to promote and empower your patient community.  

Digital Front Door in Action

To illustrate how a digital front door can best help triage your visitors, consider the varying degrees of familiarity your audience has with your brand:

Known (0PD)

Audiences in the community, 
former patients (less than 6 
months lapsed from last appointment), friends of patients

Appointment concierge, 
logistical and billing FAQs
Semi-known (1PD)

Audiences actively looking for medical/healthcare, new area residents seeking new doctors, former patients (more than 
6 months lapsed from last appointment)

Reviews, ability to request appointment information, 
booking and appointment 

Audiences seeking specialized 
care, temporary area residents

Faculty history and bios, reviews

In all cases, your audience needs a significant amount of information upfront to make their decision. But the type of information needed varies between users, and providing too much information can overload a patient, further complicating their experience and creating unnecessary friction in an already-complex journey.

Your digital front door is the first and most crucial opportunity to engage your audience, enabling them to self-identify what they need from you. Data from zero-party and first-party data sources can help fine-tune your entire marketing funnel and the tactics you use along the way. For example, you can use first-party data to re-engage lapsed past patients with new messaging, while using your zero-party data to drive appointment requests from recent and current patients.

Using this audience behavior data in future communications can also inform and optimize the messaging you deploy in your campaigns. For example, page paths of cohorted visitors can help determine what it means when audiences search for vague terms such as “care.” Did those visitors end up resolving their visit on a primary physician page or an urgent care page? Are they looking for a general kind of care or a more specialized offering? This kind of data is essential for helping you better understand your audience, and meet their needs.

Why Rise is Uniquely Positioned to Help

For large healthcare systems like Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Rise leverages these user experience customizations in tandem with targeted digital media and analytics to drive qualified audiences to the digital front door, track user trends, and optimize the user journey accordingly. Hospitals and healthcare organizations offer a wide variety of support, service, and care options, yet most healthcare offerings are mere clutter to each individual visitor: Each user’s intent is going to determine what’s most important in their digital search. And for healthcare organizations like Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, the way to capitalize on that intent is by creating and leveraging a truly effective and easy-to-open digital door. 

Healthcare marketers: This is your next era. Reach out to Rise for guidance investing in your digital front door and to learn more about how a performance marketing agency can lead the way.

Originally published September 2021. 

Updated April 2023. 

09/21/2021 at 08:44