CRM seen as critical tool in improving patient experience

Customer relationship management tools can help healthcare organizations attract, acquire, and retain patients – and give insights to drive behavior change and manage chronic conditions.
By Nathan Eddy
10:34 AM

Customer relationship management tools can be used by healthcare organizations to help attract, acquire, and retain customers, provide insight to drive behavior change and help manage and unlock assets contained in accumulated data sets.

It can also be used to improve the patient experience by incorporating prescriptive analytics to tell healthcare providers what the next best step for the individual, as well as social determinants of health data.

Arielle Trzcinski, senior analyst at Forrester Research, explained one example would be the deployment of a CRM system that recognizes a patient has transportation issues and that the impact it has on them not showing up for their appointment, which is based on their access to transportation.

"The call center agent can then help set that patient up with a ride to get them to their care appointment," she explained. "That helps the patient and also the health system not lose revenue from no-show appointments."

Another way CRM systems can help improve the patient experience is through remote patient monitoring data, for example a patient who is using a smartwatch to monitor heart health.

"If something that alerts that patient to voice a health concern, we can route that data through a CRM to reach out to that patient and see how they’re feeling, and then determine whether a virtual care visit would be sufficient, or if they need to come in," Trzcinski said.

She noted use of CRM would be "critical" as health systems look to enable their customer experience strategy.

"It’s going to uncover those pain points for customers, but also bring data together in a comprehensive manner with analytics, that can be pushed to other systems or applications," Trzcinski said. They need to be able to tap into those data and push it to the downstream apps and extend the actions."

Some of the challenges health systems will face when deciding on a CRM investment strategy will be building the business case for yet another IT investment, she explained.

"They need to be able to determine what is the ROI here, and we have proven there is an ROI in investing in the customer experience," she said. "We see CRM as being the key to unlocking that digital front door."

In addition, CRM is also helping uncover insights around what challenges these patients are facing, and helping care providers gather new types of information that can help them make decisions that resonate with their customers.

"We’re going to see quite a bit of activity this year around CRM and a lot on the digital front door—whether it’s an insurers or a provider, it will mean something slightly different, but it’s about how do we get new patients, engage the patients we have, and keep them longer," Trzcinski said." It allows them to tap into new data that frankly they need to be successful going forward. As they go into value based care, we need to have a more holistic view of the patient."

Cristy Good, senior industry advisor at the Medical Group Management Association, said patients will come to expect the same customer experience no matter where they go, and that means a practice needs to be prepared on how best to individualize care and improve the patient’s experience if they want to keep them as patients.

With incorporating a CRM with the EHR, you can enhance patient experience in a number of ways, like improving personalization of information being sent to them and better management of the referral process and can track which specialists a patient sees to improve continuity of care.

"Also, being able to customize a patient’s experience and care not only is better for the patient but also makes the patient feel like they are being listened to and that individual concerns are addressed," she said. "Having a CRM incorporated within the EHR is important for many reasons. An EHR alone usually just hold the private healthcare info of a patient, much like the old paper charts."

She warned, however, that common stumbling blocks could include: sufficient budgetary means, determining which is the right CRM for the organization; the interoperability of the system with other applications or EHR; the implementation, training and communication of the improvements; and buy-in from staff, patients and the organization.

Sage Growth Partners chief strategy officer Stephanie Kovalick agreed health systems need to take a good look at the ways in which CRM can actually improve the patient experience, as opposed to just being another layer of technology.

"If you can create a solution that allows the folks in the call center to make a more personal call, it makes it more effective, because it’s a more personal relationship," she said.

An effective CRM solution will provide that call center with about who that patient is, how long they’ve been in the system, and their past medical history.

"The biggest challenges providers have is engaging them in their care, and looking at reduced costs to meet patients to comply with their care plans and take charge of their own health—getting them to do that is extremely important," she said. "A more meaningful relationship with provider will likely lead and having that engagement helps the patient improve their status over and time and encourage a higher level of success."

As healthcare moves towards a value-based model, there’s competition for patients, and they are making more informed decisions about their health plans, and the business realities of the industry mean providers have to drive revenue and make money – improving retention drives revenue and reduces costs.

"Installing the technology is one thing, but one of the stumbling blocks are in making those platforms work," she noted. "Are you simply deploying an app, or leveraging that system in a way that you know the patient?"

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.
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Twitter: @dropdeaded209

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