First with the coming of Meaningful Use and now Value-Based Care to replace it, healthcare providers have been heavily encouraged to adopt IT systems in their practice. For the hospitals and large practices which did adopt an electronic health record (EHR) solution, it should be heart-wrenching to think of yet another IT system considering how time-consuming and expensive such a venture can be. Still, no EHR can satisfy all the needs when it comes to managing relationships with patients.
Now that the industry agenda is all about value, a patient’s quality of life becomes central in this equation that makes providers’ revenues. The more informed and satisfied a patient is, the less chances there are for healthcare providers to face penalties that cut on their profits. This is where a properly tuned CRM system is a must, as it effectively fills the gaps that can severely affect treatment outcomes.
As a system that tracks interactions with patients across every possible channel (both online and offline), it provides a complete picture of a relationship, not necessarily treatment only, which can always be improved or tweaked as required. However, healthcare CRM as such is only making its way to win users. A low awareness of its impressive functional scope and of its direct link to acquiring more patients and delivering higher-quality care is one of the reasons for its moderate adoption rates.
We came up with the overview below to do justice to the system and identify multiple areas where it can effectively complement a more familiar EHR to the benefit of both patients and medical professionals.
How the marriage will work
CRM for healthcare can’t function in a vacuum. For a truly integrated care, the system has to communicate with other IT solutions adopted at an organization, especially the EHR and the website. Once deployed, a correctly integrated CRM will skim the essential data stored in the EHR and feed it to either a patient via email and personalized website content or a care provider to optimize the care delivery process. By identifying website visitors as registered patients, a CRM can trigger medical website personalization and thus encourage patients’ higher conversion and retention rates through serving targeted materials such as relevant new services, follow-up advice on a patient’s recent checks, and more, all in the HIPAA-compliant mode.
More functional goals behind such an integration would be to enable (a) outbound communication with patients and (b) notifications and alerts to the personnel. Sounds trivial, but if you look closer this will take many administrative burdens off care providers’ shoulders and prevent certain communication gaps in doctor-patient relationships that can affect patient satisfaction and loyalty.
CRM and pre-care communication
Treatment of chronic or other conditions which don’t require emergency interventions starts with a pre-care stage that only leads up to patient conversion, and it is as much about the right communication as it is about providers’ track record and price.
A healthcare CRM would register every instance of pre-care interactions per prospective patient, through consultations and examinations, to keep up uninterrupted, systematic records. This information could be then used to alert the relevant medical personnel to alarming gaps in scheduled visits (what if they lost a client to competitors') or to notify them about a prospective patient’s intention to resume cooperation in a said period of time.
CRM and interrupted care
For conditions that imply multiple interventions in the long run (e.g. examining the endocrine profile of a woman who is considering pregnancy), keeping up with such patients and guiding them through all the stages is crucial for preventing health deterioration or setbacks.
A well-tuned CRM for healthcare is the system to notify doctors about uncompleted stages of a care cycle and to suggest how to resume interrupted care in line with the predefined rules activated in the system. Complete profiles and communication histories of ‘undisciplined’ patients would help to decide on the best possible option to contact (via a direct email, a call from the care provider, etc.) and win them back, reducing the odds of a readmission or complication and driving higher revenues at the same time.
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CRM and patient engagement
An informed patient is a step closer to recovery. At every stage of care delivery, a healthcare CRM would supply patients with personalized content via all the integrated channels such as emails, a website and a patient portal. It is especially important during the post-surgery convalescence at home when a patient may mistreat symptoms or get anxious about his or her healing progress.
In practice, CRM takes a doctor’s place to a certain extent, by timely and professional communication of relevant information whether through personalized website downloadables or handy brochures in a patient’s inbox (based on the information skimmed from the EHR, as described above). This helps to sustain patients’ satisfaction with the quality of care and keep up warm, personal relationships with each and every one of them, whether it’s a dozen of a few thousand people.
CRM and patient satisfaction
In healthcare, no relationship can end with discharge. Regardless of the type of a patient’s condition, following up long after the last appointment helps both to sustain the quality of life and nurture patients’ loyalty (a true win-win for healthcare providers!).
A healthcare CRM provides advanced capabilities for tracking a patient’s satisfaction, mood and likelihood of referring their care provider to others. This information can be obtained either by an individual inquiry via a patient’s preferred communication channel or an automated survey sent out to specified patients. Most importantly, this information can be used to generate automatic reports on patient satisfaction, visible to executives and major decision-makers.
Underestimated at the moment due to the industry’s bias towards electronic systems imposed by the government, a CRM for healthcare however opens up whole new opportunities when integrated with an EHR. Recognizing the latter’s crucial role in keeping and processing patients’ data, we tried to outline at least four areas where care providers can benefit from positive spillovers of the systems’ integration:
- winning patients at the pre-care stages
- resuming interrupted care
- stimulating patient engagement
- tracking their satisfaction with the quality of care
Compared to EHR, healthcare CRM shifts the focus from treatment to relationship management with effective and empathic communication at its core, regardless of how many patients you have. Giving in to a technology takes overcoming certain barriers, it’s true. But since healthcare IT is here to stay, it’s a matter of months till competition will raise the bar and make automation of processes a recipe for survival (no pun intended).