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Analyzing Health Cloud and Salesforce's healthcare strategy

Salesforce, with the announcement of its Health Cloud, isn't the first notable vendor to venture into healthcare as an outsider. How should we expect the move to go?

Salesforce, one of the most successful cloud-based customer relationship management systems companies, announced its entrance into healthcare by revealing its Health Cloud platform at Dreamforce 2015.

Designed to solve communication challenges and fill patient engagement gaps, Salesforce Health Cloud aims to connect patients and caregivers, with a focus on comprehensive visualizations of patient charts. It also offers management and administrative features for clinicians. Despite the appeal of these capabilities, many health IT professionals believe Salesforce's platform will face strong competition from top EHR vendors' existing Web portals.

Salesforce not in uncharted territory

The likes of Google, Microsoft and several other vendors attempted to gain popularity in healthcare with their cloud-based personal health records platforms. EHR vendors made similar attempts at rolling out portals, which would tap into the patient records that their software manages. There has not been a high adoption rate of these different options. Epic Systems Corp.'s MyChart personal health record portal has reached a large number of patients because of the company's large EHR customer base, but there are still gaps in that product and others that leave physicians and patients less than enthusiastic.

Salesforce announced its interest in offering online communications and records management services to patients and physicians. Salesforce made its name offering customer relationship management (CRM) systems to sales and marketing departments. Its software is Web-based and allows access to enterprise features for organizations with 1,000 or more users. Salesforce's CRM platform is one of the leading sales automation products, along with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

What Salesforce Health Cloud aims to do

Salesforce Health Cloud is a Web platform that offers a comprehensive mix of patient data views, communication tools and real-time patient engagement functionality, with a focus on improving the physician-patient relationship. The Salesforce offering can assist patients in viewing their health records.

The Health Cloud service provides a complete view of patient data. After Salesforce finishes some of the integration projects it's planning, patients will be able to view their current conditions, prescribed medications, appointments and preferred communication methods. Health Cloud will also add data captured by medical devices, such as glucose monitors, to patient records.

Salesforce recognizes some of the complexities of the systems available to healthcare providers and focused on developing an easy-to-use platform that will help physicians manage their patient populations. Some of the features providers might find useful are population segmentation and management, task management, collaborative care timelines and secure messaging. Providers can also assign tasks to members of their care groups and coordinate care through Health Cloud.

Health Cloud focused on patients

Salesforce touted the unique patient engagement approach of its Health Cloud. Using Health Cloud, patients and providers will have access to private specialty communities in which they can communicate with other members.

Many of today's personal health record portals focus on providing data back to the patients. In some cases, patients have to connect to multiple systems to interact with their caregiver because physicians aren't part of the patient portal. Effective patient engagement requires healthcare providers to adopt a platform that will be easy to use, and offers more than access to protected health information and secure messaging. Salesforce is seemingly offering something slightly different from what is presently available to providers. Given its history with CRM systems, it has a great shot at crafting its Health Cloud into a platform that will enhance the patient-provider relationship.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email [email protected] or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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