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by Ray Herschman
Published on November 19, 2018

Consumer expectations in health care are rising. Given people’s experiences and interactions with other industries – think retail, banking and hospitality – they have come to expect a similar, personalized experience in health care. Most other industries have used customer relationship management (CRM) technology for several years as a key tool to engage customers and provide top-notch experiences. 

 

CRM defined

How exactly does CRM technology help to achieve an increased level of personalization and engagement? In short, CRM technology allows organizations to manage relationships – and the data and information associated with these relationships – and gives everyone in an organization access to that information.

The key for organizations to realize the potential of CRM technology is to figure out how to effectively leverage their underlying data assets and related content to deliver a highly personalized and contextual experience to consumers. The more personalized, relevant and timely the information, the better the engagement. The end result leaves the consumer feeling like the organization knows and understands their needs. 

Another key benefit of CRM technology is the ability to provide a continuous and consistent experience between a business and its customers. No matter whom a consumer interacts with (whether it’s the call center associate or a care manager) or through which communication channel (e.g., portals or mobile applications), the key is for the interaction to feel personal. 

 

CRM adoption in health care

Although health care marketing departments have begun to adopt CRM technology, the industry at large remains a slow mover relative to others – ironic, given health care is one of the industries that could benefit the most.

There is, however, a significant opportunity for health care organizations to use CRM technology enterprisewide and integrate it with clinical technologies, financial services, scheduling and administrative functions. This is preferable to using it as a siloed solution tool limited to one department. Imagine a CRM system designed to support the entire clinical enterprise with all consumer and patient touchpoints integrated and managed in a systemic manner. 

 

Key components of a health care CRM

An enterprisewide CRM system can help connect information generated from consumer and patient interactions across departments and functions over time, including care management, service operations, provider network and relationship management, marketing and initiatives such as clinical trials, volunteer services and foundation fundraising. This data helps facilitate enhanced consumer and provider engagement. A few key components that make the technology viable include: 

 

  • A longitudinal record integrated into the solution to provide an organized, coherent view of aggregated, disparate data for each person. Disparate data can include clinical, claims, pharmacy and self-reported data. The longitudinal record provides the basis for giving care team members the whole picture of the person’s health, including what opportunities exist to improve one’s health status or if there are alternative care options. The longitudinal record also enables organizations to make more-informed decisions and improve provider and patient engagement.
  • Omni-channel capabilities to interact with people via their preferred channel of engagement and frequency. We know consumers aren’t always going to pick up the phone; some may respond better to text or a portal message. The number of channels is expanding – think video, virtual assistant and instant messaging. CRM enables the orchestration of communication across these channels and helps organizations engage consumers based on preference and convenience.
  • A closed-loop system that continually brings in new data to refine and better understand what engagement strategies resonate most with the population, enabling care team members to optimize engagement strategies.

 

Consumer engagement with CRM technology

Now, let’s explore how these features facilitate organizations in managing specific populations (e.g., a group of people who are at risk for developing a chronic condition). An outreach campaign to reach this population could be created to target those individuals who meet specific clinical and risk criteria. The targeted population could include people who may benefit from closing identified gaps in care, such as completing a breast cancer screening or an eye exam. 

Or, a campaign could be implemented to target people living with multiple conditions who would benefit from more active engagement with a care manager or coordinator to help them with adherence and understand new or changing treatment protocols. If a consumer included in an automated outreach campaign responds by calling the number on the email or text, the person answering can be proactive and address not only the primary purpose of the outreach but also other opportunities while on the phone. 

The CRM system can also help improve provider performance measures that are critical to value-based reimbursement models that tie provider compensation to clinical quality and health status for the populations they serve. CRM can help the care team manage gaps in care through a person’s entire journey from identification and outreach to access and maintenance of engagement with individuals over time (including between visits).

 

Provider engagement with CRM technology

Providers are influential to a consumer’s health experience and outcomes. CRM technology can serve as a fundamental tool to empower providers in improving the consumer experience. Consider referral management: an automated email campaign can be created using a CRM system to target providers who are continually referring out-of-network. The emails could consist of content that educates them on the value of referring to specialists in their network.

There is also potential to leverage CRM capabilities to manage network performance. Health systems are actively building clinically-integrated networks (CIN), accountable care organizations (ACO), high-performance networks and other collaborative care models intended to improve the care they deliver and the overall performance of the network.  

 

Implementing a strategy

Here are some tips to guide organizations in implementing a successful CRM system: 

Develop a road map

It’s best to start with a two- to four-year road map of the goals the organization wants its CRM strategy to address. Road map development is a multi-stakeholder effort. When thinking about the needed features, outline and prioritize what departments or programs would benefit most from a CRM program. Work with IT and other stakeholders to ensure the road map leverages the underlying data and infrastructure to mitigate silos. 

Consider the need to orchestrate both outbound and inbound communications. Over messaging, miscommunication and inconsistency are some of the possible unintended consequences of using CRM without orchestration and can result in disengaged consumers.

Think about staff training

With this technology, it is important to rethink employee work processes as they transition from a reactive approach to care to a proactive approach to health. Whether for scheduling and patient access, care management, provider relations, network management or patient financial services, the introduction of CRM capabilities will impact workflows. Being proactive with training will help improve productivity and facilitate the trend toward more automation, self-service and operational efficiency. Simultaneously, the capabilities will help shift labor from high-volume, low-value interactions to high-value, more meaningful and impactful consumer and provider engagement.  

Data and content strategies

CRM technologies require data and content. A critical aspect of an organization’s strategy will be understanding how to best leverage their data assets to ensure there are consistent master consumer and provider profiles across the enterprise. 

A disciplined governance process is needed for using and expanding this data as it relates to appropriate access and use of the data and internal controls. The design, development and execution of campaigns and journeys will need to become a core competency. 

While some content for specific conditions and other common use cases can be embedded, organizations will need to become proficient in crafting unique campaigns and measuring the impact and ROI of such efforts.

Cerner and Salesforce have collaborated to provide an integrated offering which combines the clinical insight from Cerner’s big data platform, HealtheIntent®, with Salesforce’s CRM technologies, Health Cloud and Marketing Cloud. The offering is designed to enhance consumer and provider engagement for your organization. Learn more here.