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Salesforce's recently launched telehealth system for its Health Cloud platform marks a bid by the company and its partners to capture a growing piece of the healthcare market.
Through the telehealth tool, channel partners can offer a real-time video and audio component to the customized offerings they create for their healthcare customers and in doing so can facilitate care coordination between patients, their doctors and other care team members.
Health Cloud's telehealth feature allows physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers an opportunity to speak with patients over a two-way video chat system that can be accessed over a mobile device. Furthermore, consultations between doctors and patients are supported by the Health Cloud platform's ability to present a patient's medical profile, including cases, records and family data during a telehealth session.
Channel partners building customized offerings for their healthcare clients will have an opportunity to implement a telehealth offering that can be used for coaching and education, post-discharge care or replacing existing nurse call lines.
Salesforce's investments in the Health Cloud platform will create greater opportunities for partners with healthcare clients, said Matt Gretczko, vice president and healthcare practice leader at Silverline, a company based in New York, that focuses exclusively on the end-to-end implementation of Salesforce products and third-party apps.
In addition to offering data management and integration services, Silverline also provides specific offerings, including chronic care management and patient contact centers, that are tailored specifically for the healthcare industry. According to Gretczko, Health Cloud's telehealth system will further enrich the customer experience.
"Our healthcare customers are asking for an omnichannel environment to connect with patients. We're seeing a transition from phone calls to emails to text messages and now video chat. Telehealth offers the flexibility to meet a number of different use cases and broadens the spectrum of solutions and services that can be delivered to meet our customers' needs," Gretczko said.
Telehealth set to grow
Salesforce, which launched its Health Cloud platform in February, is gearing up for growth in the telehealth market. According to the Market Reports Hub, the worldwide telehealth market is forecast to be worth $6.6 billion in 2020 compared to $2.2 billion in 2015.
Patients are also open to a telehealth system as a way to connect with their caregivers, a Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Salesforce shows. The study, the 2016 Connected Patient Report, found that 62% of the 2,000 Americans surveyed who have health insurance and a primary care provider would accept virtual care treatments.
As healthcare reform requires doctors to follow patients more closely to prevent both costly hospitalizations and re-hospitalizations after discharge, a telehealth system is a supporting technology that can help care teams collaborate to improve patient outcomes, said Joshua Newman, M.D., general manager of Salesforce Healthcare and Life Sciences and Salesforce's chief medical officer.
Newman noted that the healthcare industry is focusing heavily on bundled payment initiatives, the patient centered medical home and population health. He said those initiatives require healthcare facilities to collaborate better on the planning, execution and management of patient care through integrated systems and processes that prevent bottlenecks during the course of a patient's treatment. The telehealth system can support these efforts.
"Care coordination can only be done with close communications between care teams and with patients," Newman said. "Hospitals are increasing their care coordination activities across partners and improving quality of care interactions with patients which help to keep people out of the hospital."
The cloud in healthcare
While telehealth is becoming increasingly common in healthcare environments, so too is cloud computing.
IDC research examining future healthcare provider technology investments showed that of the IT decision-makers and other executives polled at 200 hospitals, close to 87% said they are comfortable using cloud computing to manage their data.
"I think healthcare organizations are recognizing the opportunities of cloud economics," said Lynne Dunbrack, research vice president for IDC Health Insights. "The shift from capital expenditure to operational expenditure is a significant play for them."
In addition to cost savings, Dunbrack said healthcare providers are drawn to cloud computing because it provides a system that manages health-related data in a way that improves performance, productivity, availability and uptime. She also said many healthcare organizations are getting comfortable with cloud providers' security capabilities and are leaning toward private clouds or hybrid clouds, as opposed to public cloud platforms.
"Healthcare organizations are beginning to recognize that cloud service providers probably know more about security than their own internal IT organizations," Dunbrack said. "Many hospitals, especially smaller ones, want to use cloud technology because they don't have the money to hire IT security professionals."
IDC's research also found that healthcare organizations prefer to use a software as a service (SaaS) model for business operations and outreach to communities rather than for managing clinical data. For example, 46% use SaaS for social media management, 40% for enterprise resource management and supply chain offerings and 35% for IT operations. By contrast, only 10% of respondents say they use SasS for their electronic health record (EHR) management, 11% use it for clinical applications other than EHRs, and 9% use SaaS for care and disease management.
Matt Gretczkovice president and healthcare practice leader at Silverline
Gretczko said healthcare customers are having a hard time managing the increasing amounts of data they generate, and Health Cloud can help them access, sort, organize and aggregate data across their clinical and business legacy applications.
"If healthcare customers have a patient's information sitting in their electronic health record, in their data warehouse, or in their financial systems they can pull all the information into Health Cloud as an engagement layer which gives customers a 360 degree view of all their interactions with that patient," Gretczko said.
Health Cloud also helps Salesforce partners with their sales and marketing strategy.
"The opportunity that Salesforce is creating helps drive a mentality across the industry that healthcare organizations can fully capitalize on cloud. Partners can reinforce that message when they implement Health Cloud exactly as it was built or when they extend the application with additional functionality to meet specific business needs," Gretczko said. "Since we've been using the Health Cloud application, we've delivered solutions quicker and with much more added value to our customers than we previously could."
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