Salesforce launches new healthcare features to manage social determinants and in-home care





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Salesforce is bolstering its offerings in healthcare by adding new features to its Health Cloud platform meant to help organizations monitor social determinants of health and manage the growing in-home care category.


“The general overarching theme that unites all of these innovations is that care is gravitating increasingly toward the home or outside of the hospital and the doctor’s office,” said Salesforce Chief Medical Officer Joshua Newman in a phone interview.


Research has repeatedly shown that social factors such as transportation, diet and housing have an outsized impact on overall health when compared to clinical care. However, the use of this social context to inform clinical care has been stymied by the clinician’s ability to access, view and ultimately use, this information.


Health Cloud’s new Social Determinants for Care feature aggregates and displays these factors and potential barriers to care as part of a patient’s profile, helping caregivers to develop better informed and personalized care plans.


Sharing a common data set also allows healthcare organizations to better organize and find the partners and resources necessary to bridge individual gaps in care and plan larger strategies to address social determinants.


Newman said that socio-demographic data such as income, educational attainment, transportation access and zip codes have long been used in industries like retail and financial services to better understand end customers and it would follow that this data is relevant in delivering healthcare services as well.


Some potential applications include call center staff using social determinant information to better route care and integrated health plans using the tool to improve E.R. diversion rates.


“A lot of people in health care know about the importance of social determinants of health, but the volume of information is so great that being able to display things clearly and concisely in front of the people that are using it – when they need it – makes it more operant and more prominent in the care of that patient,” Newman said.


But it’s not just providers that Salesforce is targeting. As healthcare’s business model continues to shift to paying for outcomes and value-based contracting, the need grows for payers to see a more detailed picture of a patient’s health and take preventive action to guide people to alternate modes of care.


In-home care is also a growing business for provider organizations supported in part by loosing reimbursement policies allowing caregivers to receive payment for their services. Home healthcare has been shown to reduce costs and hospitalizations and improve overall health outcomes for patients. 


Salesforce’s Field Service Lighting for Health Cloud allows providers of home health services a way to better manage and connect care coordinators, dispatchers and in-field clinicians in a HIPAA-compliant setting.


The new feature, which provides scheduling and employee management tools for home healthcare organizations, was adapted from a previous Salesforce product developed for other purposes such as maintenance and deliveries.


Salesforce appears well-equipped to ride the trend of the “patient as consumer” due to its own innovations in customer acquisition, relationship management and marketing in other consumer industries.


A particularly good illustration is the company’s integration between Health Cloud and it’s marketing platform allowing healthcare organizations to be able to gear communication and marketing to patients before they get a clinical intervention through follow up care and messaging after they leave the clinic.


“The longitudinal journey has never been more important and within each of the parts of that journey there’s the opportunity to learn and systematize what you’re doing. It’s a kind of muscle that an organization develops,” Newman said.


A pre-requisite of making better more data-informed decisions is obviously ready access and free exchange of data, a common aim of the big technology companies looking to target healthcare.


Salesforce was one of the signatories – along with Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle – of a pledge to remove technical barriers to interoperability in healthcare with the hope of kicking off a data-driven revolution that has been seen in other industries.


This baton has been taken up by policymakers as well, evidenced by the new proposed rules meant to promote patient access to health data.


“Healthcare has been slower culturally, politically and socially to share their data. But what we’re seeing now is even those organizations that have historically not shared their data are realizing they can do a better job if they do,” Newman said.


Photo: shylendrahoode, Getty Images



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