It’s no secret by now that healthcare providers are finally beginning to put patients at the center of their universe. Driven by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and demand for transparency, the industry is increasingly emphasizing the quality of patient care and outcomes over volume of clinical services.

Patients today expect a higher level of engagement from their providers. Tech permeates their lives. They are used to using a wide variety of mobile and connected devices to learn about products, manage their personal accounts and interact with brands. But in healthcare, that hasn’t been the case. Why not?

Many observers suggest the culprit is a lack of investment in modern technical infrastructure. But, while healthcare might have lagged for a while, the industry has definitely awoken to the benefit of modern tools of engagement to interact with patients and provide continuous, preventive care. They’re motivated to adopt. In fact, Gartner forecasts spending by global healthcare providers for system integrators reaching $3.3 billion this year.

While we at Salesforce see healthcare providers embracing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms to focus more attention on patients, they aren’t using CRM to its fullest potential. Here are the top 5 mistakes healthcare providers make with CRM systems:

1.Don’t fall in love with CRM for the wrong reasons

Before you invest in CRM, make sure you understand why you’re doing it. If you’re thinking it will be some sort of glorified address book to help your teams stay on top of patient names, addresses and office visits, then you’re significantly under-estimating the value of a powerful CRM platform. The “R” in CRM doesn’t stand for “records;” it stands for “relationships.” Implement a plan from the start to determine how your CRM will be used to find patients, match them with the right health solutions, lower costs, and increase patient satisfaction through continuous interaction and care. These should be your goals.

2.Expecting an Immediate Payoff

Some pundits suggest you shouldn’t go into a CRM deployment unless you expect to see a payoff within a year. I respectfully disagree. That is a very sales-oriented mindset, which I understand to a point. But the fact is that any so-called “payoff” is meaningless if it doesn’t map to the greater goal of better continuous patient care. Having a truly vibrant, functioning and effective CRM system that advances patient relationships and ongoing care takes time. A more strategic path toward this patient-centric goal would be to start small and be selective. Choose priority areas to focus upon that map to a broader strategy, attach metrics to them, share those metrics with upper management and then exceed expectations. Effective CRM systems are built out gradually while aligning with long-term goals.

3.Overlooking the Importance of “Clean Data”

Companies invest millions of dollars in state-of-the-art CRM systems. But according to a ZS Associates survey, 72 percent of organizations say their staffs aren’t using the CRM enough. One of the biggest barriers to adoption cited in the report was the accuracy of data. That’s a huge issue for any company deploying a CRM platform, but it’s particularly problematic in healthcare where bad data could lead to ineffective treatment plans for patients.

As part of any CRM rollout, organizations should identify clean data goals, conduct an audit to see where they stand, develop a formal data quality plan, adopt tools to automate data cleansing, and perform check-ups to adjust and improve the process once or twice a year.

4.Adding Mobile as an Afterthought

A recent Salesforce and Harris Poll survey looked at the importance of various technologies to patients choosing their doctors. As you might expect, older patients continue to favor traditional means of connecting with their providers. But millennials – the generation born between the early 1980s and 2000s – are a whole different matter. According to the survey, 73 percent of millennials said they would like doctors to use mobile devices to share information, and 71 percent said they would be interested in doctors providing mobile apps to actively manage their preventative care, review health records and schedule appointments. The findings are clear: healthcare providers should have a mobile engagement plan as a way of attracting younger patients and managing their health over time.

5.Inadequate Training

Today’s CRM systems are fairly user-friendly, but they are still complex and powerful tools. The worst thing you could do would be to spend generously for the most modern CRM platform and then fail to educate everyone in your organization on how to use it properly and to its fullest potential. Begin training staff before the deployment is complete. This serves the dual purpose of helping you to identify any potential problems and familiarizing your team with the system before it’s in full production. You might want to partner with your CRM vendor, many of which offer a bevy of excellent training resources to help organizations deploy more smoothly.

Joshua Newman, M.D., is CMO of Salesforce.

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