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HarmonyCares CIO Kristin Darby - integrating patient data to bring back personalized care

Mark Chillingworth Profile picture for user Mark Chillingworth May 15, 2024
Summary:
Centralized information on the Salesforce Healthcare Cloud is helping CIO Kristin Darby create healthcare harmony, in a drive for personalized care.

Kristin Darby CIO HarmonyCares
(Image sourced via author)

In modern-day remote healthcare, the customer relationship management (CRM) system is as vital as a stethoscope. Providing timely and accurate information about each patient relies on an information culture that benefits the patient, the care staff and, ultimately, the organization. CIO Kristin Darby has been at the forefront of developing that information culture and delivering the technology required at HarmonyCares since early 2022. 

Across 14 states HarmonyCares provides in-home care for patients with complex needs. The majority have six or more comorbidities, and therefore, care is highly involved. HarmonyCares is even able to provide services such as radiology in the patient's home. Darby says of the organization: 

It is like 75 years ago when the doctor always visited you at home, we are bringing back that model of personalized care. For those with complex cases that really reduces the friction that is inherent with coordinating appointments, travel, parking and then waiting in waiting rooms, all of that is eliminated.

Although taking care to the patient's home eliminates the friction of a hospital visit, there are complexities that could easily introduce new friction. This is the reason Darby and HarmonyCares have invested in an information-led culture and processes. She explains: 

We need to know who has touched the patient, what they did and why? We also need to know if the patient called in a service or was it an appointment.

To deliver that HarmonyCares has been using the Salesforce Health Cloud platform in what Darby calls a Patient 360 degree view: 

All patient touch points are brought together so that we have all the information for treatment.

Darby adds that prior to centralizing information on the Health Cloud platform, a number of silos held the data and prevented sharing across areas such as physicians or the call centre team.

Now it's really pulling that picture together to provide better care, and also, for the employees, they are not hunting for information; we are bringing it all to them.

The platform enables HarmonyCares to put all its information into the patient's electronic health record (EHR), which, she says, is improving care as follow-up tasks and actions are available to everyone involved in that patient's care. That also helps the patient with managing their condition and return to health. Darby says a patient can have their prescriptions changed following a hospital visit, but if they are using in-home care, they may have difficulty getting to a pharmacy to collect the new drugs; with the patient-centric platform HarmonyCares social workers are able to step in, collect the medication and get it to the patient. 

The Health Cloud platform has also improved integration with non HarmonyCares systems, such as health insurance providers or clinical specialists such as oncologists or cardiologists using health information exchanges. 

We want to make sure they all have the same information.

HarmonyCares first began working with Salesforce in a more common CRM way, using the platform in its Community Outreach department to inform customers that they could have in-home care. Darby says: 

Patients are often unaware that it is available as part of their insurance, so we needed to make them aware of our capabilities and to personalize the message.

HarmonyCares now has Salesforce Field Service for scheduling patient visits, and the Health Cloud platform operates its Care Management and Engagement Centres. 

Automatic for the patients

Healthcare technology leaders are, like peers in most other verticals, looking to adopt greater automation to improve processes. Darby has used robotic process automation (RPA) to decrease the number of repetitive tasks in dealing with insurance companies, for example. She says: 

I think automation is really critical as healthcare systems continue to integrate and become larger, so the need for automation becomes more attractive as the volume of transactions and processes increases. It also helps with the digital experience.

On that last point, Darby and HarmonyCares have been ensuring insights into the patient are added to the platform for the remote carers to use. The CIO says this helps create that personalized care that the organization strives for. She says this can enhance the soft skills of the carers and prepare them to help a patient who is not only unwell but may also have celebrations or low points going on in their lives at the time of the visit. 

Automation also benefits the business; the Patient Engagement Centre has seen utilization increase by 25% and productivity of all employees is expected to increase by 15%, Darby says. Patients using self-scheduling have increased by 50%. 

Careful deployment

No matter the geography or funding model, implementing technology-led change within healthcare brings about worries, especially from patients and frontline care staff. To counter some of those fears, Darby and her peers, on a bi-monthly rota - go out with their in-home carers to see the technology and applications being used. She says: 

I have a distributed IT team that are in many of the markets we service, so I go and see team members and do a 'ride-along', going house to house with the care providers and it gives you first hand knowledge of the technology in use. That is incredibly beneficial for the design phase as we continue to transform the organization.

Asked about navigating the change journey in healthcare, something Darby has been doing since the mid-1990s, she says: 

Technology is where we stand back, and firstly understand the business problem and be sure where technology is appropriate. Any time we think about technology it is important to figure out how it was tested, are we adding bias risks and to make sure it is the right choice for our patients. So it is a reserved approach. 

Darby actually began her career in the finance team of Fresenius Medical Care North America before moving into technology in 1999; she went on to be Director of Information Technology for Fresenius and then her first CIO title came in 2009 with CRICO and then Tenet Healthcare, Cancer Treatments of America, Envision and now HarmonyCares. So what is it about healthcare that she loves? 

I have thought about leaving health, but it's hard to find a sector that would give that level of satisfaction. I like building solutions that help patients, and I love it when you can see that you have created a better experience.

Few healthcare CIOs have had the opportunity to work right across the US and in such diverse health settings as in-home care and cancer. Reflecting on her career journey, Darby says: 

Health is very local, but there are commonalities. So if you understand the commonalities you can design around these with nimbleness for local needs and that is very important for a system to scale.

My take 

Darby talks of commonalities, and using off-the-shelf CRM tools is one such commonality. If the health sector is to cope with the rising demand of an ageing population, then simplifying administration processes and using the same technologies and workflows, where possible, as used in other vertical markets is going to deliver efficiencies, which ultimately should benefit the patient.   

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