Nurse escorting a senior woman

The phrase “patient-centered healthcare” gets thrown around a lot in the healthcare industry, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or sometimes called Obamacare). But the ACA isn’t the only reason why this idea is getting a lot of attention. Patients are also shifting the healthcare landscape by demanding more from their healthcare providers. As consumers, patients are realizing the power of choice and being more selective about who provides them with the care they need.

This shift means that quality improvement and patient relationships are more important than ever. Shifting the focus from faceless numbers, like readmission rates, to doing things that improve the quality of healthcare, such as building patient relationships, can actually increase patient satisfaction, which in turn can improve other important metrics.

Does the healthcare industry need Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to help them do all this? CRM could make patient-centered healthcare a lot easier. Here are 5 ways the healthcare industry could benefit from CRM.

Know your patients better

Marketing is much more effective when you know your audience. So is medicine. Having a CRM system that can keep track of who your patients are, what medications they’re on, who else provides them with care, and other important pieces of information can help you get a picture of who your patients are overall.

CRM gives you the ability to keep track of each customer (because patients are customers) on a micro and a macro level. On the micro level, CRM can give you a timeline of your patient’s health. On the macro level, it can give you the ability to pull data about who your customers are overall, which can help you make better decisions about your practice overall.

Build better relationships

Studies are starting to demonstrate that the stronger the relationship is between healthcare provider and patient, the better the outcomes are. The provider-patient relationship is extremely personal. There’s a lot of trust on both sides. The provider has to trust that the patient is being completely honest with him or her, and the patient has to be able to trust the doctor, nurse, or therapist enough to be completely honest and open with him or her – without fear or shame.

According to a survey done by the Society for Participatory Medicine, the majority of patients surveyed indicated that they want a closer relationship with their doctors. So how do you do that in a practice where you see hundreds of patients on any given week? With CRM tools. CRM can give you a better picture of who each patient is at a glance by using cloud technology to integrate data from electronic health records, patient registration systems, health screenings, wearable technology (such as Fitbits or smartphone apps), and notes from past visits. It’s a more efficient way of keeping track of each patient, so you can offer more personalized care.

Healthcare providers have another layer of accountability in the provider-patient relationship: rating scales. Now, ratings websites such as Healthgrades and another popular one called RateMDs, where patients rate their doctors and leave reviews, make it easier for people to shop around for the healthcare provider they think will be best for them. Patient rating scales also determine scores for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Those CMS scores determine government reimbursement rates for hospitals and other healthcare organizations.

Building better relationships with patients isn’t just about getting better ratings on a few websites though. A healthy provider-patient relationship can lead to more engagement, more trust, and essentially better outcomes. This trust helps patients to feel more confident about openly communicating their medical problems. It’s also the kind of trust that keeps patients coming back to their healthcare providers and referring friends and family. It’s a win-win – the provider and the hospital or clinic get better scores, and the patients get better care.

Increase patient engagement

Quality improvement starts with the patient. Getting patients to comply with medication instructions and doctor recommendations is essential to patient care and better outcomes. When patients start partnering and engaging with healthcare providers, everyone wins.
In the survey done by the Society for Participatory Medicine, 88% of the patients surveyed believed working with their providers as a partner will help with their health. This belief is shared by physicians as well. According to a survey by Consumer Reports, physicians agree that “forming a long-term relationship with a primary-care physician is the most important thing a patient can do to obtain better medical care, with 76 percent saying it would help ‘very much.’”

If both parties are on the same page, where’s the disconnect? A lot of the onus of engaging patients still rests with healthcare providers. Providers need tools that help them to keep track of each patient’s care, as well as tools to help them to communicate better with their patients. This is where CRM can play a big role. As a healthcare provider, what if you could access data from wearables or from other healthcare providers? What if you could set up automatic reminders about medication instructions or follow-up appointments for patients? CRM tools can make that possible. They are part of the solution of increasing patient engagement.

Better marketing

At this year’s HIMSS conference, Joshua Newman, chief medical officer at Salesforce, explained to attendees, “Every industry is focusing more on customers and [it’s] happening for patients. Making people happy with a better experience helps care.” He makes an important point: Customer experience is a big part of marketing, and a good CRM can definitely help with that.

But CRM can help with more than just creating a patient-centered experience. It can help you create better marketing campaigns by giving you more insight into who your target market is. It can help you segment your patients so you can communicate better. It can also help you nurture leads so you convert more folks who are “just looking” into patients. Overall, CRM can help you track and measure all your sales and other patient engagement activities in your practice while helping you maintain and build relationships with your current patients.

Modern healthcare is less about managing patient records and seeing as many patients as possible and more about being patient centered. Most healthcare legacy software wasn’t made to be patient centered. That’s why savvy healthcare organizations and clinics are applying CRM software and principals to create a more cohesive patient experience – from marketing and lead generation to regular care.

Salesforce Health Cloud

One CRM we are particularly excited about is Salesforce Health Cloud. Built for the healthcare industry, Health Cloud has become an effective tool for providers who want to be more patient centered. Salesforce Health Cloud integrates with electronic health records (EHR) and other third-party data. It has a way for providers to build rich, contextual patient profiles and collaborate with other providers and networks. It also cuts down on many of the administrative tasks involved in managing patients through automation.

Overall, CRM can make healthcare information more accessible for your patients and everyone on your team by providing you with collaboration and communication tools that work across devices. CRM also gives you a way to track your entire patient process, from before intake to active treatment and maintenance. That makes for better relationships, more cohesive treatment, and smarter marketing. Could everyone benefit from a tool like that? We think so.