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Blog: Opening the digital front door in healthcare

2 June 2023
By Kate McDonald
Image: iStock

Having kicked along the use of virtual care in a hurry, the COVID-19 pandemic also helped kick open the concept of the digital front door in healthcare. IDC predicts that this year, 65 per cent of US patients will have accessed care through a digital front door, and the concept has well and truly arrived in Australia and New Zealand.

Part of the digital transformation movement, the digital front door is variously described as a way that healthcare organisations and providers can provide digital access to care through a single portal or platform that includes a number of components such as virtual care options, patient engagement technologies, verified information sources, booking and referral systems, all designed to improve the patient experience.

The concept very much took off in 2021 and 2022, and is now making inroads locally. Central Adelaide Local Health Network is looking to pioneer the concept for the whole of SA Health, and NSW Health has made a start, setting up an Engage Health portal and building its NSW Health app. The latter was championed by former Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Victor Dominello and it seems the new state government is keen to continue that work.

(NSW Health is also doing interesting things with its Engage Outpatients program, which will see an electronic referral management solution roll out statewide along with HealthLink’s Smart Forms technology. More on that next week.)

Two software vendors heavily involved in the digital front door were in the news this week, including Orion Health, which has provided a lot of the technology and expertise behind a digital front door that is now supporting 15 million patients in Canada, and Personify Care, which has been plugging away at the concept for several years through its digital patient pathways technology and is kicking quite a few goals recently. Other vendors like Dedalus and its Swiftqueue technology are hot on their heels.

We expect the digital front door to be one of the big trends in healthcare technology this year. Let us know what you think about it in our poll below.

Also making news this week was the not unexpected move by the Medical Board of Australia to rule out asynchronous prescribing for patients who haven’t been seen before. This was foreshadowed last year and despite arguments from reputable telehealth firms like InstantScript and Medmate – and from some not so reputable who hover around the weight loss, hair loss and erectile dysfunction markets – restrictions were always likely to occur. Providers like InstantScript and Medmate will survive by offering virtual consults, as they do already, but it will be no go for questionnaire or text-based consults.

We also had an update on the Australian Digital Health Agency’s Provider Connect Australia service, which has signed up some big guns in NSW Health, Telstra Health and 27 Primary Health Networks, and from ADHA’s aged care division, which is looking to start work next year on interoperability between the My Health Record and My Aged Care systems to allow aged care assessments to be better shared. There was also an update on progress with the aged care transfer summary, which is now being worked on by the vendors.

And finally, Telstra Health made the news with what it says is Australia’s first FHIR-native virtual care platform, which expands on its previous capability in virtual care. Telstra Health was one of if not the first software vendor to adopt FHIR for virtual care back in the MyCareManager days, way back in the distant past of 2015.

Telstra Health was prescient to say the least in identifying FHIR and virtual care as important trends of the future. In 2023, they are now commonplace. Will the digital front door join them?

That’s our poll question for the week:

Is your organisation planning a digital front door strategy?

Vote here and leave your comments below.

As always, we got a huge response to our poll from last week on My Health Record and whether you supported information being uploaded by default. 77 per cent of you did. Here’s what you said.

2 comments on “Blog: Opening the digital front door in healthcare”

  1. Great article and examples. Completely agree that digital front door is becoming mainstream. The concept is not new, though, and has been implemented by different providers / health systems all around the world but I reckon with interoperability standards like FHIR being widely adopted and a growing culture of data/knowledge sharing just made this very feasible!
    I also noted, the scope and definition of DFD is pretty broad – mostly including data and services from inside hospital walls with some virtual care / patient engagement included. Within this broad scope I reckon there will also be certain vertical DFD solutions; e.g. like the VVED digital front door solution implemented which we are proudly part of.
    As a standards geek, I’d love to see vendors providing best-of-breed specific components of a DFD with a plug & play architecture enabled by FHIR so a provider or health system can choose components they need to deliver own DFD.

    • Name - Koray Atalag
  2. Is your organisation planning a digital front door strategy? Most said yes – 75 per cent to 25 per cent – but the number of votes was very low so we don’t know what to read into this.

    Here’s what you said:

    – Right time right care right place – reduce duplication

    – Reduce unnecessary hospital visits.

    – It allows patients to only present to the Healthservice only when absolutely required, thus keeping the patients that have less serious issues to not present and thus saving them time and the healthservice resources.

    – We currently have 52 major digital front doors; our goal is to reduce this to as close to one as possible.

    • Name - Pulse+IT

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