Luis Louro - Fotolia


Chief Innovation Officer discusses implementing CRM in healthcare

A CIO discusses how his healthcare organization is using CRM in healthcare. He believes more and more healthcare organizations will begin to use CRM to improve patient care.

Customer relationship management in healthcare is becoming more popular. And big CRM technology companies like Salesforce are entering the health arena to capitalize on that trend. Some health IT experts believe that part of healthcare's future lies in using technology to foster and grow patient relationships, much like what is happening in retail, where a retail sale is largely based on a consumer's personal relationship.

Easter Seals Bay Area, a nonprofit healthcare organization located in Pleasant Hill, Calif., helping care for people with disabilities and special needs, is implementing CRM in healthcare to provide better patient care. Robert Van Tuyl, chief innovation officer at Easter Seals Bay Area, discusses how they are using CRM in healthcare to improve patient care.

How is your healthcare organization using CRM technologies?

Robert Van Tuyl: We're using ... customer relationship management models to do the full intake of a referral of a patient, and we manage the patient referral almost as an opportunity that goes through various stages of a workflow before they become a patient. Because not every referral, for example, becomes a patient; they may be outside the service area, they may not be the right diagnosis for us to handle. So it's a workflow that exists in the sales world in terms of opportunity pipeline management that we've modeled against for this particular behavioral health service line, and what we're doing right now is also looking at it as a platform to be able to serve any of our services, not just behavioral health. We're taking it to other affiliates that we're going to be able to support, hopefully, and serve -- for example, long-term care services that we provide in a different affiliate -- and build and leverage that same technology that we've used here.

Robert Van Tuyl, chief innovation officer at Easter Seals Bay AreaRobert Van Tuyl

Will implementing CRM in healthcare be widely adopted? How will it benefit patients and help deliver better patient care?

Van Tuyl: I think there are definitely other institutions that are looking at technology and taking this approach to healthcare, providing them with more CRM focus. I think in general, the macro trends are its going from acute care in hospital to more long care management outside of the hospital while people are at home or trying to get [patients] to not be readmitted. The mental health space is gaining a lot of momentum in terms of becoming a more integrated component of the overall care, and all of that requires more of a customer-focused approach so that you know not only when the customer or the patient is in your hospital, that you're taking care of them, but when they leave, you maintain that relationship for the time they're with you. And it doesn't matter if somebody is a house professional or paraprofessional that is at the home, a long-term care provider, they're all part of that care team. And once you establish that ability to manage the care team far beyond the immediate PCP -- the primary care physician, the doctors that are providing acute care, but expanding it to the long-term care team and also the nonmedical professional -- now you get a full view, ultimately benefiting the customer.

And the customer's getting more of an end-to-end traditional business relationship with [the healthcare organization], where they feel more seen as a customer with all the benefits of that. They have shared information about everybody that works with them; you don’t have to bring your own medical file to other specialists while you're going to them. You have a central place to be able to manage your care, and I think it will become a competitive advantage at some point for medical providers to have that approach.

Next Steps

What's hot in health IT? 3D printing and CRM

What providers should consider when it comes to CRM

Salesforce's Health Cloud faces hurdles

Dig Deeper on Population health management