Easter Seals turns to Salesforce to improve care for patients with disabilities

The nonprofit's use of the Health Cloud illustrates how the CRM company is catering to a fractured health care industry.

If parents from the California Bay Area needed treatment for their autistic child, chances are they'd start by discussing the issue with their primary care provider -- say, Kaiser. Kaiser may refer the family to Easter Seals Bay Area, a nonprofit that provides services for people with autism and other disabilities.

From there, Easter Seals may have the child take some diagnostic tests and send the results back to Kaiser. The nonprofit might then provide therapy for the child and work with other care coordinators to find the right combination of treatments.

Up until now, Easter Seals Bay Area would largely coordinate all of this on paper. The nonprofit said Thursday, however, that it's using Salesforce.com's relatively new Health Cloud to manage patients' information, as well as all the relationships -- with doctors, therapists, pharmacists and others -- it takes to treat a patient.

As a specialty care provider that fits into a complex web of treatment options, Easter Seals is exactly the sort of client Salesforce is catering to with its Health Cloud -- entities that need CRM-like tools to keep the focus on the patient.

"No longer can a single hospital do everything to take care of a patient," explained Dr. Joshua Newman, the chief medical officer and GM for Salesforce Healthcare and Life Sciences. "As a patient now, we're shuttling between a bunch of different folks who have a vested interest in our treatment working out."

The Bay Area branch of Easter Seals has a network of more than 3,500 practitioners, and it's partnership with Salesforce could be a launching pad for the nonprofit to expand the parternship nationally.

While health care makes up one-sixth of the U.S. economy, it's a fractured system with countless local and regional partnerships. The inefficiencies that exist are "a really hard problem to solve in a top down way," Newman said.

Consequently, Salesforce isn't trying to replace existing electronic health record (EHR) systems, or even import all of the information practitioners are storing in those records. "That would be unweildy and not that necessary," Newman said. He added, "A platform like this has never been seen in health care -- as we solve problems for people, they'll give us more data."

Easter Seals will tap into its internal EHR with the Health Cloud, to help deliver some information more easily to other entities. Newman said he expects the nonprofit to significantly cut back on its email traffic with the Salesforce collaboration tool Chatter.

Additionally, Easter Seals can use the Health Cloud in conjunction with other Salesforce clouds. It will be using the Salesforce Community Cloud to support its network of practitioners, as well as the Marketing Cloud to communicate with donors. It's also using the App Cloud to build custom mobile applications, such as a charge entry app that practitioners can use when conducting in-home visits.

"Health cloud doesn't exist by itself," Newman said, calling that its "unique value proposition."

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