Healthcare CRM: Top Uses Cases for Customer Relationship Management | TechTarget

Healthcare CRM is taking the industry by storm, with medical organizations tapping customer relationship management platforms to support many of their population health needs.

These tools rose to prominence in the 1980s for consumer service sectors working to build relationships with shoppers. The marketing emails and SMS messages that fill your inbox daily with sales and promotions are the work of CRM software.

Healthcare has adopted the technology as it responds to the influence of healthcare consumerism. With patients responsible for more of their healthcare costs, plus becoming accustomed to their experiences with Amazon or Target, they are looking for a more service-oriented healthcare experience.

That comes as medical institutions are also laser-focused on improving population health. With the rise in value-based care reimbursement models, it is essential for providers to boost overall population health and hit key clinical quality measures.

Healthcare CRM platforms help fuse those two imperatives, taking a retail marketing approach to population health. But with per-user-per-month fees that can rack up a hefty bill, these technologies shouldn’t be purchased lightly. Healthcare organizations need to prove ROI for healthcare CRM software, and part of that is ensuring they have the use cases to effectively use the tool.

Healthcare CRM software use cases can range from more business-oriented tasks to more population health approaches. Below, PatientEngagementHIT outlines the different population health use cases for healthcare CRM tools.

Healthcare has long had a care gap problem, with the COVID-19 pandemic and primary care office shutdowns exacerbating it. Care gaps emerge when a patient does not access a key preventive service, anywhere from a flu shot to a cancer screening. Performing well in delivering these preventive services is usually a part of value-based contracts.

Healthcare organizations can leverage their CRM software to address those care gaps. If an organization notices it has low childhood immunization rates, it can use CRM software to reach out to families and encourage immunization appointment scheduling.

“One of the great things is that you can target pretty much anything you want to,” Chuck Ray, the executive director of Children’s Medical Group, which used automated patient outreach messages to respond to its childhood vaccination problem. “We’ve targeted things like seventh-grade entry. In our state, you have to have a certain vaccine before you can go into the seventh grade.”

“We can look at the kids who are 11, 12, 13 years old, who are going into seventh grade, and then send a specific targeted health campaign out that’s informing them of that requirement and encouraging them to schedule an appointment to get their checkup and get their vaccine,” he continued. “And it provides a direct link for them to be able to click straight through into our online scheduling portal and schedule an appointment.”

Healthcare organizations using CRM to fill care gaps should craft messages explaining the importance of filling the care gap and include a link to schedule an appointment. That allows for that consumer-centered experience that patients enjoy in other service sectors while also helping to close the loop in key clinical quality measures.

In addition to closing care gaps, CRM software can send targeted patient education messages. This function is useful for organizations that want to educate their populations about illnesses affecting a lot of people. An organization may have used its CRM software to educate patients during the early days of the pandemic, for example.

CRM software also has the ability to segment out populations, letting providers send out tailored patient education messages. That’s important as more health systems risk stratify patients and personalize their patient engagement strategies.

Children’s Wisconsin used its patient outreach strategy to segment new parents and deliver them timely patient education.

“It’s all about that patient experience and retaining patients just to reaffirm that mom or dad or caregiver’s decision of choosing Children’s Wisconsin as their pediatric provider,” Richard Hanson, marketing manager for Children’s Wisconsin, told PatientEngagementHIT in a previous phone call.

“And that’s what started the baby’s first year, the newborn campaign,” he added. “The series of those emails targeted to parents at very specific times throughout baby’s first year, letting them know that we’re here for you, here are important resources, here’s how to access care, after-hours care, and some of the digital health and resource tools that we have.”

Healthcare organizations need to determine how they would like to segment their populations for this targeted patient education. That will require a good data strategy to ensure patients are actually falling into the right buckets for the right messages and also not receiving duplicative messages.

As always, patient education needs to be mindful of patient health literacy levels, as well as English language proficiency and preference.

As healthcare organizations continue to work to boost patient portal enrollment, CRM software might be useful.

Ensuring patient portal enrollment is still a key priority for organizations, even if they are no longer receiving incentives as a part of meaningful use. The patient portal is HIPAA compliant and tethered to the EHR, meaning it is a good space for patient-provider communication that contains PHI. This is counter to email and SMS messages, in which providers cannot include PHI.

But patient portal use rates are still low, despite the fact that most healthcare organizations offer patient access to the technology. Using CRM software as a marketing tool, health systems can spread awareness about the patient portal and provide individuals with a link to enrollment.

Healthcare organizations don’t just need to use CRM software to get patients to interact with their own facility; this technology can also be useful in controlling healthcare utilization. Making sure patients are using the right kind of care at the right time is essential for outcomes and managing staff workloads.

However, patients don’t always know when it’s best to visit the primary care provider, urgent care clinic, or emergency department. June 2021 data showed that emergency department (ED) utilization has dropped around 40 percent, which the researchers said is far below what would be ideal. Such a large drop indicates that high-acuity cases that truly need ED attention are being missed.

That trend could be due to the COVID-19 pandemic or restrictive payer policies but nevertheless indicates organizations need more patient education about where to access care for which symptoms. This follows 2017 data showing that few patients could identify whether they should visit the ED, urgent care, or retail clinic when faced with a set of symptoms.

Using healthcare CRM, organizations can create patient education campaigns to ensure access to the right care facility. These outreach messages might be timely, like explaining certain cold, flu, and COVID-19 symptoms during peak seasons and directing patients to the right facility based on symptoms.

This is also useful for health systems that are opening new facilities. A system that has opened a new primary care office may direct outreach messages to patients depending upon the address they have on file and whether that new facility is in the patient’s neighborhood. That approach may also be effective for organizations that deploy mobile health clinics.

Healthcare CRM is useful not only because it automates patient communication but also because it provides insights into that communication. Most CRM platforms let users view open rates and even see whether a patient booked an appointment because of the CRM-generated message.

That functionality has important population health tracking purposes because it lets organizations test and iterate their targeted messaging.

That concept also makes the case for more healthcare-specific CRM platforms. Many healthcare organizations use CRM platforms that are industry-agnostic, which certainly has benefitted the industry. Many of these tools can integrate with the EHR and other practice management tools to help cater to a patient database based on their demographics and clinical factors.

But the future of healthcare CRM might need to enable the capture of more clinical data, especially for tracking outcomes. At Epic Systems, which has its own CMR platform Cheers, tracking capabilities need to be in-depth. Sam Seering, a product manager on Cheers, said organizations need to see not just how many appointments a message yielded but also how many cancers were detected as the result of a message. That will require a more integrated EHR and CRM platform.

“Health systems are really trying to understand their populations and build one-on-one unique interactions with each of their patients,” Seering explained in an interview. “And that’s where a CRM platform built specifically for healthcare and integrated into the full electronic medical record enables organizations to understand those populations, each of their unique needs, and to help them on their specific healthcare journeys.”

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