Salesforce updates Health Cloud to better engage patients

New features to the Health Cloud make it easier for physicians to coordinate different care plans for patients, to communicate with patients directly.

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Salesforce on Thursday introduced updates to its Health Cloud, giving health care providers the ability to coordinate multiple care plans for a single patient, as well as improved ways to engage directly with patients outside of the doctor's office.

Launched in 2015 as one of Salesforce's first industry-focused clouds, the Health Cloud is designed for health care entities that need CRM-like tools to manage patient relationships.

One new feature, Concurrent Care Plans, enables providers to more easily treat comorbid patients -- patients with multiple, coexisting diseases. Care providers can use this feature to assign different care plans to different care teams. For instance, a physician could assign a patient's hip replacement care plan to an orthopedic team and the patient's diabetes treatment plan to his internal medicine team. Providers can set permissions associated with the different care plans, controlling who has access to patient data.

Care plans can include aspects of treatment such as physical therapy or prescription drug plans, as well as administrative tasks and follow-up communications with patients.

"These kinds of commmunications and educational fuctions are turning out to be just as important as medical procedures and medications in getting the right results," Dr. Joshua Newman, chief medical officer at Salesforce, said to ZDNet. "Certainly it serves no purpose to give medications to a patient if they don't take them."

To that end, providers can now more easily share care plans and other aspects of the Health Cloud with patients via the second new feature, Health Cloud Empower -- a mobile app to connect patients and providers.

Previously, Health Cloud customers could build their own mobile apps via an API, but Health Cloud Empower is an out-of-the-box feature that lets care providers connect with patients. It also enables care providers to cutomize the mobile app -- either for individual patients or for a cohort of patients -- with simple, drag-and-drop tools.

"None of this has been done before," Newman said. The ways providers and patients communicate, he said -- "phone calls, text messages, task management -- have never really been on the same platform that gets measured before."

Within a year or so, Newman said he expects the data collected on the platform will help health care providers understand how to better customize care plans based on variables such as a patient's clinical history, socioeconomic status, or comfort with technology.

"Our effectiveness [as health care providers] will go up, costs will go down... that's the theory behind all of this, to instrument the health care process," he said.

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