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. 

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Cloud Migration and Cloud Services

Cloud Migration and Cloud Services

By Luca Junghans

A look inside these cloud capabilities

By joining forces, Valence and MajorKey offer an even greater set of cloud services for businesses that want to power their digital transformation with cloud technologies. 

MajorKey works with clients to migrate business applications to the cloud, and Valence builds services on the cloud. This is one reason these businesses are such a powerful combined force. 

The cloud refers to software and services that run on a (usually) regionally located server owned by the cloud service provider, instead of on an on-premise server owned by a customer. Cloud servers are in data centers all over the world. By using cloud computing, companies don’t have to manage physical servers or run software applications on their own machines. 

It’s big business. In fact, one of our partners, AWS contributed 14.5% of revenue to Amazon’s overall business in 2021, which would have operated at a $1.8 billion loss in Q4 without it – and AWS revenue was up nearly 39% compared to 2020. 

There are many ways to use and understand the business impact of cloud technology. We are breaking down the distinction between cloud services and cloud migration for you here!  

Cloud Migration and Cloud Services 

Simply put, cloud migration is what happens when a company moves some or all of its software onto cloud servers.

In other words, cloud migration is moving your software to a managed server operated by the cloud provider; and cloud services are technology solutions built on top of those managed servers. There’s a whole range of capabilities bridging the two. 

Let’s take a closer look.  

Cloud services range in how much they abstract away from the customer.  A good example is Amazon Cognito, which is a user management cloud service. Amazon Cognito has implementations of basic user functions such as login, logout, sessions, and security, so a customer doesn’t have to worry about a deeper technical implementation of these features and can focus on managing users.  

Cloud services are so flexible that there are seemingly infinite ways to deploy them for a business. Cloud services are the infrastructure, platforms, and software hosted by cloud providers, and there are three common solutions:   

  1. Infrastructure as a service: The renting out of virtual machines and space to customers, while providing a way to remotely manage the resource. When a company migrates to the cloud, they are using this service. 
  2. Platforms: Providers like AWS and Azure build specialized software on top of their own cloud hardware and offer the software to customers as a service. These are specialty services and can provide patterns for things such as Data Analysis, Compute, IoT, APIs, Security, Identity, and Containerization. We wrote about Digital Twins in a previous post, which referenced Digital Twin platforms offered by AWS and Azure.  
  3. Software as a service (SaaS): Software can be built on top of the platforms offered by the cloud providers. Software developers can also partner with other third parties to provide fully built instances of software that typically come with subscription rates, customer support, and personal configurations of the software. Examples of this include Atlassian Jira and Confluence, Dropbox, Salesforce, and G suite

These services can be transformative for businesses in general, but it’s not always easy to know the best way for your business to use them. The added benefits to this migration range per case, and here are four examples: 

  • Scalability: Cloud services often offer on demand scaling options that can satisfy unexpected or planned growth. Depending on your product, this can be a lot easier than upgrading on-premise hardware, but not always cheaper. 
  • Cost: Although we expect the costs to be passed to the consumer in some way, the logistics of maintenance and upgrades to the cloud systems is handled by the provider. In many cases this can translate to a huge amount of money saved for the customers. 
  • Performance: Performance enhancing services like CDNs and regional hosting, when understood and configured properly, can have tangible and positive performance impacts. 
  • Local Management: Being on the cloud means access to the digital portals to manage the services (most times). This creates a lower bar of entry for employees to manage and observe the resources. 

Many businesses start their digital transformation journey by migrating infrastructure or applications from on-premises servers to the cloud. Notably, cloud migration can also refer to a situation where a business needs to bring the cloud resources they manage into an on-premises environment. It can also describe a situation where a business moves its data resources from one cloud provider to another.  

Cloud migration to use cloud services is a process that presents many upsides, and is worth investigating!  The process will add additional complexities – specifically, security and governance will generally be instituted upfront as a base for the rest of the migration. We design and engineer performant, scalable, and maintainable applications that save businesses money, fill in knowledge gaps, and provide users with a positive experience.  

Here are two examples of cloud services that we’ve built for clients:  

  • Building cloud applications with AWS lambda: We have bridged the gap between multiple third-party APIs and created new databases that consolidate data and deliver it to a web application. Cloud services remove the need for our clients to interact with these multiple services, which saves them time and money. At the same time, we used AWS Cognito to help our customer manage roles and users in a secure and trusted way. This removed the need for our engineers to write our own user management software, a cumbersome task. 
  • Data pipelines:  We identify problems in our customers’ current database providers and migrate data to a more performant and better structured database in cloud-to-cloud migrations.  

We will continue to build and migrate while we investigate the future of the cloud. What are the new services and platforms? Who can benefit the most from them? How can we do it right? We will be prepared for the cloud migration and services needed from the real world to the metaverse, and beyond.  

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Effective Digital Transformation

Effective Digital Transformation

The phrase Digital Transformation is commonly used today, referring to everything from an overhaul of a legacy system to leveraging online systems to engage customers. As champions of digital transformation, our team  believes in the power of smartly planned and efficiently executed digital transformations to enhance business strategy; we believe that effective digital transformation is a cornerstone of business, and it is imperative that individuals understand the definition, potential impact, and processes that lead to success.

[ Digitization ←> Digitization ←> Digital Transformation ] + People

Effective Digital Transformation: How do we think about it?

Effective digital transformation puts business strategy ahead of digital strategy, whilst interweaving the two. Successful digital transformation solves business problems by focusing on the customer — for example, by decreasing costs, or increasing value — and using technology solutions that cut through business functions, industries, processes to affect change. In short, technology is a means to an end.

Digital transformation may help reduce product costs, but what does that do for the business? It provides resources to be routed into other aspects of the business. Leverage those freed up resources to enhance the customer experience and you are left with improved margins and happier customers and an effective digital transformation.

Consider Amazon — a company that digitally transformed its business of book selling to a Big 4 technology company. Amazon leveraged digital transformation initiatives to change its supply chain and operational efficiency in order to provide a better customer experience. Their culture (the world-famous 14 Leadership Principles) and business strategy are interwoven to focus on the customer: Amazon Prime has some of the fastest delivery options in the market and Amazon Web Services provides some of the best cloud solutions for enterprises. They digitally transformed their business and now provide customers with digital solutions to digitally transform theirs. From their website: “Amazonians… share a common desire to always be learning and inventing on behalf of our customers.” Leverage culture and technology to improve customer experience; digitally transform the business to help the customer.

Digital Transformation contains components of digital strategy, the use of digitalization, as well as digitization efforts. These terms, often thrown around interchangeably, are in fact pieces of the larger puzzle rather than equal to the overall process. Digitization is the process of moving from analog to digital, pen and paper to Microsoft Excel. Digitalization, according to Gartner, speaks of the use of digital strategies, technologies, initiatives to tap into new business opportunities or change a business model. If anything, one leverages digitization to digitalize, and the overall transformation of a business from one to another, becomes digital transformation. The definitions are debated and often vague, as discussed by Jason Bloomberg in this Forbes article. It is important to remain consistent in thinking of digital transformation as the overarching umbrella of strategic digital initiatives to improve the business with the customer at the forefront.

Digital Transformation: Consider “The Process” towards success

What does Digital Transformation success entail? What does it look like?

As enterprises restructure their strategy to evolve amid a changing technological and economic landscape while centering around the customer, it is important to consider the process and what it takes to succeed.

Key Stages to Success

According to Keller and Price in Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage, successful transformation involves a few key stages — from goal defining, to organizational assessment, to designing and initiating transformation and sustaining it. It is critical to understand where the enterprise is and where it wants to go — and it is critical to be consistent and practical.

Ensuring Success

to move forward with a transformation initiative, it is imperative to align Keller and Price’s stages with McKinsey’s 5 themes to a successful digital transformation, which involve digitization to prepare an enterprise for digitalization:

  • Having the right, digital-savvy leaders in place
  • Building capabilities for the workforce of the future
  • Empowering people to work in new ways
  • Giving day-to-day tools a digital upgrade
  • Communicating frequently via traditional and digital methods

Think about the Amazon example again — they didn’t just leverage digital solutions to overhaul their business; they leveraged cultural practices to ensure that Amazonians are driven towards the integration of technology and customer centricity. McKinsey’s themes encompass a similar outlook: empowerment, communications, capabilities, leadership — core cultural understandings that can support a digital transformation initiative.

At Valence, we focus heavily on thinking about the future. It is critical to be ever ready for tomorrow, whether it means continuous learning, or building systems and solutions to prepare for what is next. These stages and themes will ensure enterprises are thinking about the next step, focusing on being proactive rather than reactive. At this important juncture of the 21st century, where we have crossed into a new decade and face the challenge of economic reinvention due to a global pandemic, it matters how we use technology to transform our enterprises to meet changing customer needs.

In summary, as stated by Jim Darrin, CEO of Valence,

“No industry or company can ignore the importance or impact of Digital Transformation, and must embrace a digital strategy in order to evolve into the next generation.”

Do you think your business is ready for a digital transformation? We can help you with the journey. Contact us for more information.

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What is Digital Transformation?

What is Digital Transformation?

What is digital transformation?

While working for a Fortune 500 industrial enterprise in the building materials sector I thought digital transformation was just a buzzword to market IT services. Then I went work for Valence Group Inc., a digital transformation company. Within the first few weeks, I discovered several companies in the building products sector that had already undertaken digital transformation initiatives (their words, not mine!). To skeptical large-enterprise executives still unsure what digital transformation means, let’s answer “what is digital transformation?” 

An organization’s journey to change business models and processes and build an agile culture for adopting new and emerging technologies to improve customer experiences and operating results.

Let’s break this definition into its key parts:

First, digital transformation is a journey. Many traditional IT projects (including ERP) have a defined work plan, budget, and a cut-over date whereby a new technology tool is deployed with a high-impact one-time splash complete T-shirts, a project codename, and promises of synergies. Digital transformation is not just a one-time deployment, nor should it attempt predict the one tool that will deliver the end-state of technology to the enterprise. Through digital transformation your organization should be prepared to leverage new technology today and in the future.

Second, the purpose of the journey is to build an enduring agile culture. With roots in software development where teams adapt quickly to customer and market demands to deliver functioning software, the agile mindset can work across your entire business. The agile culture you build through digital transformation can become your company’s agile approach across your entire business. After all, companies are becoming digitally enabled enterprises or being left behind the competition.

Third, digital transformation is about adopting new and emerging technologies. Today, we can identify leading-edge digital initiatives as leveraging blockchain, augmented reality, and a few other emerging technologies. Seven years ago, these technologies were unknown. Seven years from now something new will transform business yet again. Digital transformation initiatives include technology deployment within an organization, but digital transformation is not about one specific technology. It is a journey to an agile culture to adopt and leverage new and emerging technologies, whatever these technologies are today or seven years from now.

Finally, the purpose of digital transformation is to improve customer experiences and operational results. In a pre-digitally-transformed business, the technology culture is centered on an IT team (cost center) keeping the infrastructure running and managing a back-log of new projects. Post-digital transformation, the agile culture extends across all functions and line leadership. Technology investments are considered at the same time as other assets like forklifts, production facilities, and warehouses, and by the same leaders. The technology tool set includes new and emerging technology that are leveraged for the specific purpose of improving customer experiences and operational results.

Our definition of what is digital transformation comes from a twenty-year foundation in building products and as a senior executive in a fortune 500 industrial company. It is more business-centric and less techy than some with the focus on culture and improving operating results. After all, aren’t all investments in people, equipment, and facilities ultimately about improving a result? Digital transformation should not be any different.

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