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Cultivate Stronger Care Delivery with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Technology

Smiling doctor talking with a patient

In an increasingly digital world – retail, travel and entertainment industries have all found ways to improve user experiences that generate value for its consumers, like expedited shipping, ease of returns, accommodation of last-minute changes or rebates for subpar service.

“Value should always be defined around the customer,” Michael E. Porter advocated in his piece on value creation in healthcare in the New England Journal of Medicine.

We have an abundance of technology in healthcare, but we’re slow at knitting it together to maximize the value delivered to patients. As healthcare is undergoing a massive transformation toward value-based care, that will have to change. This transition is spurring an increasingly interconnected healthcare ecosystem marked by shared risk, deepened partnerships and the proliferation of nontraditional care teams. At the same time, consumers are demanding an unprecedented level of personalization. Patients are bringing their experiences from other industries into healthcare and feeling underwhelmed; they want providers to understand not only their history but also their preferences.

A Relationship Gap in Healthcare

Jonathan R. Slotkin, MD, pointed out one of the problems facing healthcare today. In the Harvard Business Review article, Why This Health System Offers Refunds to Dissatisfied Patients, Slotkin noted, “The provider-patient relationship has long been sacrosanct. But comfortable reliance on this ‘precious’ relationship has left us in a situation where the customers of many other sectors (such as retail) are often treated better from an experiential standpoint than medicine’s patients.”

Not long ago, doctors wrote the names of a patient’s family members in the margins of paper-based records. They may have added in birthdays or upcoming life events so they could ask about them during the next visit. They did this because they knew a fundamental truth about delivering care: relationships are paramount.

By connecting with patients at the beginning of an encounter through casual conversation, doctors built connections and established trust, setting the foundation for an enduring doctor-patient relationship.

CRM Technology as a Solution

As we continue to grow our digital footprint in healthcare and as processes continue to eclipse system boundaries, we need to recognize the value of these systems and enable them to grow and manage the numerous relationships in healthcare – with providers, payers, suppliers, and, of course, patients and their supporting team.

How do we do that? What technology do we use? How about a customer relationship management (CRM) solution? Industry-agnostic solutions that offer a range of engagement capabilities – a 360-degree view of the customer, campaign management, contact management, omni-channel engagement, journey management and online customer access – can be recast into healthcare as patient 360, patient acquisition, patient access center, patient journeys and patient communities.

According to Gartner, CRM is the fastest-growing enterprise-software category. Gartner also predicts that by 2021, CRM will be the single largest revenue area of spending in enterprise software. It is interesting that, while CRM is pervasive in nearly all industries, it has barely made a dent in our $3.3 trillion-a-year healthcare industry that presumably puts a premium on relationships.

How is CRM Being Used in Healthcare?

That said, CRM is making its way into healthcare. For example, currently we are seeing:

  • Call centers armed with increasingly sophisticated and intelligent contact management technologies integrated with electronic health records (EHRs), offering clinical context for the user
  • A shift from passive outreach to smarter, more deliberate marketing and to marketing campaigns that grow service lines and increase patient volume
  • More ways to engage patients via text, video and mobile apps – in other words, multiple channels of choice for the digitally engaged patient

This is CRM in action.

HIMSS recognized this trend toward the use of CRM in healthcare and saw the need to learn about and inform its members on this topic. To that end, HIMSS launched the Exploring CRM Technology for Healthcare Task Force. This Task Force aims to define how CRM technology can support the healthcare industry in an era of interoperability and health information and technology standards. We are exploring how the use of CRM can accommodate the growing imperative that providers have to engage with their patients through multiple modalities including voice, video, SMS and mobile applications. We will also explore how providers can manage these relationships with tools that allow them to marry clinical data with engagement and other person-generated data.

We expect to address the following in our deliverables:

  1. A definition of CRM in the context of healthcare
  2. CRM survey results on the state of and attitudes toward CRM
  3. A list of CRM use cases in healthcare and anticipated value with focus on interoperability and health information exchange
  4. Description of CRM capabilities and how they fit in the health information and technology ecosystem
  5. A list of base requirements for a CRM system in healthcare
  6. Recommendations for change management

The Task Force has made great progress and we are eager to share our now published definition of “CRM in Healthcare” with you.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.