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Digitization at the doctor's office: How adopting a digital-first mindset can lead to happier patients and staff

You’ve likely been to the doctor’s office and been handed a clipboard and a pen to fill out your personal information before your appointment. In a perfect world, you could just enter your information from your laptop or smartphone before you arrive.

It’s no question that digital self-service options are desired by consumers in every industry, and healthcare is no different. 

Like all industries, COVID-19 pushed healthcare to its edge. It amplified how important the digitization of healthcare is so that patients can get care from afar, and so that healthcare workers can do their jobs more efficiently.

However, providing digital, self-service options and automating back-office processes is difficult for an industry that generates 30% of the world’s data1. It isn’t easy to bring in new technologies and processes while ensuring that patients receive quality care, and clinicians can do their jobs with ease.

Read on as we explore the state of digitization in the healthcare industry and why adopting a digital mindset is key for patient satisfaction.

Digitization difficulties

It's no surprise that patient data is critical to healthcare. After all, it’s collected at each step of the patient’s journey to inform doctors and nurses about care decisions, and is used to craft health policies and research.

However, the data doesn’t always come in the most useful form. Manual data entry, paper forms, and undocumented processes lead to inconsistent patient experiences, error-prone employee experiences, and long wait times.

But digitization doesn’t happen overnight, and those organizations who have embarked on digitization journeys don’t see guaranteed results: Only 30% of large organizations sustain a successful digital transformation, and that statistic dips to only 11% or less for healthcare and pharmaceutical industries2


Problems and solutions

Problem: Unstructured data

There are so many processes in healthcare that still produce unstructured data: whether it’s discharge summaries, clinical notes, medical images, or the aforementioned patient intake forms.

The problem is, these paper-based processes are repetitive for patients, add manual work for staff, and are error-prone.

For example, the patient data that is entered by hand on the clipboard in the waiting room could be misinterpreted by the staff who take the paper form and manually enter it into the electronic health record (EHR). That data might have one small error, like the omission of some family medical history that would be critical for a healthcare provider to know.

Solution: Structure data at the source

Instead of having staff spend time manually entering patient data, the ideal solution structures data at the source, and:

  1. Allows patients to enter their personal data electronically, from the channel of their choice, ahead of their appointment;
  2. Only presents questions that are applicable to patients based on their previous answers;
  3. Flags any errors or warnings if a piece of information, like a home address, isn’t entered correctly;
  4. Is sent directly to the EHR system upon submission.

Problem: Outdated processes

You likely already know that each healthcare provider has different processes; some are already equipped with the latest technology, while others are still printing out requisition forms. It’s hard for patients to get a consistent experience, and clinicians have to navigate new processes if they switch jobs or facilities.

Solution: Evaluate processes to remove bottlenecks

To start digitizing processes, it’s important for healthcare providers to assess which ones are causing the biggest slowdowns.

For example, in a hospital setting clinical rounding can be a tedious process. Doctors and nurses have to take detailed notes regarding the progress of each patient, and when it’s done manually, it can be extremely time-consuming. And, there are often questions on the form that don’t apply to each patient, but they still need to be acknowledged. 

clinical rounding document2

With the right digital solution, clinicians are asked the right questions at the right time, making the process faster. It also reduces manual errors, and provides data that integrates into downstream systems.


Problem: Legacy systems

While staff and clinicians are used to the software and systems they’ve been working with for years, the downside of keeping legacy healthcare systems is far too great. After a while, IT will have to use dozens of resources just to keep them up and running to meet organizational standards.

And although many healthcare providers will be hesitant to sunset existing solutions and implement new technology because of the cost and operational disruption, the right solution doesn’t have to be daunting. In fact, it can actually give those closest to the process the power to tailor it to their liking.

Solution: Give the employees the right tools to build and scale

The right technology solution should enable non-technical workers, clinicians, and other healthcare staff to:

  • Build digital solutions with rules-based logic 
  • Guide users through complex data-collection processes with ease 
  • Standardize the inflow and outflow of data
  • Allow healthcare organizations to adapt to changing regulations and requirements
  • Provide a secure, patient-centric experience


Digitizing the healthcare system

It’s important for healthcare providers to push toward automation and digitization in order to enhance patient satisfaction. In today’s digital age, patient expectations have changed and healthcare providers have to adapt in order to keep up and to ease the burden of their heavy workloads. By using digital solutions, healthcare providers can improve the patient experience and create accessible, scalable, and high-performing environments for patient care.

Patient interacting with pharmacist. Read the pharmacy case study.

Sources and credits

1RBC Capital Markets: Navigating the Changing Face of Healthcare Episode, RBC Capital Markets | Navigating the Changing Face of Healthcare Episode. Accessed September 16, 

2Unlocking success in digital transformations, McKinsey, October 2018