Salesforce warns the health industry: the tech world is eyeing your market

As part of its move into verticals, Salesforce is pitching personalized and predictive services for the health sector -- warning that the tech industry could soon come for its business.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

As Salesforce expands its business into industry-specific products and services, the health sector is an obvious target -- the US spent more than $3.5 trillion on health care in 2018. It's also an industry in clear need of a digital transformation. 

"It's almost 2020 and, Teslas are nearly driving themselves," Dr. Ashwini Zenooz, Salesforce's SVP of healthcare and life sciences, said on stage at the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. Yet "doctors are communicating with each other and sharing information with each other using fax machines."

Zenooz laid out an alternative reality, in which patients receive personalized care and health providers can leverage predictive tools.  

Imagine, she said, "your insurance companies using advanced machine learning algorithms to predict your needs and reach out to you... Life sciences companies using your data -- with your consent -- and bringing you personalized and targeted therapies." 

Salesforce is making the case its Health Cloud, launched in 2016, can help health organizations achieve that reality -- even the organizations still using fax machines. "Wherever you are in your journey," Zenooz said, "we want to help you get there."

If the health sector doesn't move forward on that journey, Salesforce and its partners warned, there are digital startups and Silicon Valley giants that will gladly pick up any dissatisfied patients and customers. 

"Native companies that are not from health care but from technology are going to start disrupting our industry," Chris Zant,  chief digital officer for ConvergeHEALTH at Deloitte Digital, said on the Dreamforce stage. 

Rob Seaman, SVP Product for Salesforce, pointed out that $11.3 billion in venture capital flowed into the health space in 2018. 

Digital transformation may seem like a heavy lift for large, deeply entrenched healthcare organizations, Seaman acknowledged. He brought on stage Johnson & Johnson CIO Tom Weck, who testified that it's possible to build new digital services, even at Johnson & Johnson's global scale. "Having a platform technologically that allows us to build a market model and scale it around the world is fundamentally important to us," he said. 

Dealing with different and evolving regulatory frameworks is just one of the challenges facing the industry. In the next 10 years, Zenooz noted, the US health sector will have to deal with changing demographics, different pricing models and -- significantly -- interoperability. Data needs to move with a patient, Zant said, so that they can "navigate a health care journey the same way we navigate a consumer journey."

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