Salesforce updates Health Cloud to consider "social determinants" of health

The new feature to Health Cloud could be used by medical providers and insurance companies alike to inform their patient interactions.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

It is well accepted that a wide range of factors -- beyond what you may typically discuss in your doctor's office -- can affect your health. Called social determinants, these include things like access to transportation or the safety of your neighborhood. In the latest version of Salesforce's Health Cloud, medical providers and payers (including insurance companies or employers, for instance) can document that information and use it to inform the way they interact with patients

Also: Salesforce brings image search to Commerce Cloud

The new feature is one of multiple ways Salesforce is updating the Health Cloud to facilitate a more holistic approach to the business of health care -- one that enables greater collaboration among medical providers, payers and other businesses.

Dr. Joshua Newman, chief medical officer at Salesforce, explained why collaboration is increasingly important for the health care sector.

Electronic medical records "were vital in bringing us to a relatively modern age of health care," he said. However, "the vanguard of health care is shifting away from the hospital and towards everywhere else -- the home, employment, lifestyle."

As the industry moves toward comprehensive yet personalized care, "We need the tools we enjoy in every other industry to reach us in ways that are individualized," Newman said.

So for instance, a doctor may want to use the Social Determinants feature in Health Cloud to learn about whether patients have access to the transportation they need to come in for follow-up appointments. The feature can help medical providers collect that information and then act on it -- in this situation, they may use the Salesforce cloud to connect patients to a ride sharing service.

Salesforce customers are expected to primarily input this data manually. At the same time, customers will be able to import data from other sources into the updated Health Cloud. Salesforce last year acquired MuleSoft -- and one of the prime use cases for it, Newman noted, is health care given how siloed and disparate health-related information is. Eventually, Newman said, Salesforce customers should be able to include data derived from complex analytics and AI.

"I can see a day when that happens because a lot of this data is out there, whether you look at zip codes or what people buy," he said, "the data to figure this stuff out is available."

Meanwhile, much like health care providers, payer organizations can use social determinants data to deliver personalized, cost-effective care. For instance, they could use information about a patient's education level to determine whether they need an in-home visit following a medical procedure versus reminders from a mobile app.

"If there's any constituency that's been driving this, it may be payers because it bears so mightily on the ultimate outcome," Newman said.

Payers can use a whole range of information to determine the risk of covering someone's medical care, and consequently, how much they should charge them. However, Newman said he doesn't expect the new Health Cloud feature to be used in that way.

Must read

"This is more bringing data to front lines, and payers are really right there," he said. "They're not just submitting bills and processing transactions anymore. They're guiding care, some of them own provider networks -- the lines are much more fuzzy than they ever were before."

In addition to adding Social Determinants to the Health Cloud, Salesforce is integrating it with Field Service Lightning, the product for coordinating workers in the field. This will be useful for large organizations that are increasingly coordinating care for patients at their homes.

"Delivering oxygen tanks, taking a blood sample -- coordinating all of that is really hard," Newman said. "Unless you have state of the art technology to do it, it's going to cost you more than it should."

Health Cloud also now integrates with Salesforce's Marketing Cloud. This will let hospitals and other health organizations segment and enroll patients into different "journeys." For instance, if a provider wants to notify certain patients about a skin care clinic, they could build a patient list within Health Cloud and then use the Marketing Cloud to engage with patients via email, mobile and social channels.

Tech that stole our heart or broke it

Related stories:

Editorial standards