Healthcare does not – and cannot – begin at the doctor’s office.

Rather, health is a part of our everyday lives and requires sustained care at home, in the workplace, and beyond. In recognition of this, countries like Singapore and Australia are moving towards newly announced population health strategies that emphasise continuous and preventive care.

This is where customer relationship management has emerged as a solution to facilitate a more seamless relationship between doctor and resident. Unlike traditional electronic health records, customer relationship management software is not just a tool in the back-end to consolidate resident casenotes. Rather, it’s an engagement platform that expands opportunities for doctors and residents to communicate with each other.

Though the uptake of technology has historically been lower in the health sector, Covid-19 triggered a seismic shift, increasing the adoption of electronic communication tools amongst both patients and clinicians, says Dr Bryan Tan, Chief Health Officer of Salesforce APAC.

Now, customer relationship management software is poised to support residents in taking ownership of their health, doctors in providing the best healthcare, and agencies in collaborating on projects together.

Empowering patients through decentralised care

Barwon Health, the largest healthcare provider in the state of Victoria, Australia, is paving the way for decentralised care. Their new community electronic medical record powered by Salesforce will provide patients real-time access to their own clinical information through a consumer portal, reported IT News. They will also be able to communicate with their healthcare providers, book appointments, and access resources through this portal.

Patients benefit when they are empowered to “take care of themselves, coordinate their own care, and have access to information that helps them make the right decisions about their own health,” says Dr Tan.

Such platforms can engage communities in co-designing population health efforts, which is critical for groups that have found it difficult to access healthcare due to cost, physical location, or inequality, he says.

Salesforce Health Cloud enables doctors and patients to communicate with each other through any means: phone, SMS, emails, and so on. As a result, these portals can be a way for patients and doctors to communicate and collaborate on health outcomes throughout their care journey, rather than just in the clinic.

A research survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group and Salesforce of over 24,000 people across 36 countries found that positive and seamless digital interactions between citizens and government agencies can be critical to improving trust. Citizens having access to their information and transparency in the use of data can also help to do so.

Additionally, the system will make lives easier for Barwon Health’s community outreach team, which provides care to patients in schools and homes. Now, when they are visiting patients with their tablets, they will receive faster access to patients’ information and have far less paperwork.

Older electronic health medical record software required physicians and nurses to trawl through each other’s notes to understand a patient’s condition and coordinate care better. But when nurses are delivering care out in the community, speed, flexibility, and ease of use is key.

Supporting population health projects with data

A holistic view of each patient’s data not only improves the provision of care, but can also provide insights for population-level measures and strategies, Dr Tan says.

Platforms should be designed to perfectly capture all data regardless of where it originates. This means solutions and technology should be crafted to be interoperable – i.e., able to receive and exchange information from other systems. This will enhance information agility and help agencies understand their patients better.

For example, the state of New South Wales, Australia, used Salesforce’s integration tool, MuleSoft, to facilitate the transfer of Covid-19 test results data from 60 public and private lab systems to existing electronic health record systems. This ensured that providers could have test results faster and allowed the nation to tackle Covid-19 with more speed.

Population health projects also benefit from interdepartmental and interagency collaboration, such as between health and public housing agencies. Salesforce platforms can support agencies in developing interoperable solutions that can service multiple agencies within a matter of weeks, he notes.

“The cherry on top is to add AI,” says Dr Tan. Artificial intelligence can provide suggestions for the next best action to guide healthcare practitioners. For instance, how many followup appointments should a post-surgery patient be scheduled for to lower the risk of unplanned admissions? Using real-world data, AI bots can supplement practitioners by surfacing such insights in accessible ways, explains Tan.

Once enough data has been collected on a population-level, healthcare practitioners can rapidly turn these insights into actual improvements in care models and strategies, explains Dr Tan. In contrast, it currently takes years or even decades for data to generate insights that can inform healthcare strategies, he notes.

Making it easy for professionals to provide care

Quick automation of repetitive processes can help nurses and doctors focus on direct patient care, says Dr Tan. This can mean everything from front desk registration to regular data analysis.

When new processes are introduced, it is critical that IT teams are able to develop these workflows independently, rather than relying on technology providers to custom-build new infrastructure to support each new workflow.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health, for example, was able to transform their bowel cancer screening platform hosted on Salesforce to develop a contact tracing and vaccine management system for Covid-19 when the pandemic swept the globe in 2020. The platform was a “LEGO set of bricks” they could build new workflows with, Dr Tan explains.

Low-code and no-code technologies can facilitate this, says Dr Tan. By bringing drag-and-drop capabilities to IT teams in hospitals and allowing them to create bespoke workflows quickly, organisations can reduce turnaround time from two to three years to four to six weeks, he adds.

Population health doesn’t just refer to grand visions of healthier populations; on the ground level, it means patients who are engaged and proactive owners of their health, doctors who can focus on providing the best healthcare, and agencies that can quickly collaborate. Customer relationship management software that can easily draw in data from any source and be quickly reconfigured to tackle new challenges may be the path to achieve this.

Dr Bryan Tan is the Chief Health Officer for Salesforce APAC, providing thought leadership and strategic counsel internally and externally to clients across the public health ecosystem. Dr Tan was the Senior Physician Executive for Cerner and Senior Supplier for the Queensland Health integrated electronic medical record (iEMR) programme for digitising hospitals around the state and consultant for the NSW eHealth’s eMeds/EMR programme, NSW Local Health Districts and various Victorian Health Services. He also served on Cerner’s international panel for population health development.