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Salesforce Health Cloud bets on healthcare transformation

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright September 2, 2015
Salesforce Health Cloud aims to be a catalyst for change as healthcare shifts from its traditional focus on critical care to a more holistic patient view

Medic with digital tablet and blue digital background © everythingpossible –
Following rapidly after last week's Financial Services Cloud, Salesforce today announced the second of its promised series of industry clouds.

With Salesforce Health Cloud, the vendor is hoping to seize the opportunity to become a catalyst for change as the healthcare industry shifts from its traditional focus on critical care to a more holistic patient view. Salesforce takes the view that existing systems in the US revolve around electronic medical record (EMR) systems, whose main purpose is to allow physicians to carry out and bill for procedures — to such an extent that they ignore data that won't produce a billing outcome down the road.

Industry transformation

But now the healthcare system is having to reorient itself around health outcomes rather than billing outcomes. Joshua Newman, a former primary care doctor who now heads up Salesforce Health Cloud in his role as chief medical officer and general manager of Salesforce Health Care and Life Sciences, outlines this healthcare industry transformation in a blog post published today:

Because of the Affordable Care Act and new outcome-based reimbursements, healthcare providers are treating patients like customers for the first time. That might sound like a scary development to some, but it's great for you and me, because it means caregivers are finally putting patient relationships — not records or revenue-cycle management systems — at the center of how they deliver care.

This new view of healthcare aligns with what others in the industry are seeing. For example, Jeroen Tas, CEO of Philips Healthcare Informatics Solutions and Services, described a similar transformation of healthcare in an interview with diginomica last year:

What you can see here is that we're starting to connect these dots which were never connected ... It only works if you combine that data and make it actionable.

We want to make sure that everybody in that journey understands what the ultimate outcomes have to be and how you can guide every participant to understand how we can optimize to get a better result for the patient.

Key components

The key components of Salesforce Health Cloud, which will be available from February next year, are built on the Salesforce Service Cloud platform. They were described today as:

  • An aggregated view that helps to make sense of patient data, including a profile, historic timeline and a map of the people involved as caregivers. This will draw on a variety of data sources, from traditional EMR data to records held by ancillary services such as chiropractors or physical therapists. The aim is to create the healthcare equivalent of what salespeople define as a 360-degree view of the customer (or in this case, the patient).
  • A console that tells caregivers what actions to take, and allows them to collaborate using Chatter social networking. They can also segment groups of patients for monitoring and management purposes.
  • A community platform that allows patients and caregivers to collaborate on healthcare needs and questions.
  • Built-in HIPAA compliance using various security features.

Scoring the Salesforce Health Cloud

So how does the Salesforce Health Cloud map to the industry cloud strategy pointers I outlined last week in my analysis of the Financial Services Cloud? Here's a round-up.

  • Building on experience. Health Cloud scores strongly straight off the bat by having a qualified physician leading it, which bodes well for industry relevance. For the design and development of the solution, Salesforce has leveraged the experience of health customers with whom it has had long-term relationships, including Centura Health in Colorado, medical device maker DJO Global, Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and the University of California, San Francisco.
  • Exploiting scale. As I signaled last week, Salesforce is explicitly targeting its industry cloud solutions "at volume market opportunities where its reach and scale enable it to roll out a solution to networks of consumer-facing agents or partners. So for example, when it unveils a healthcare solution, this will likely be one that both clinicians and patients can interact with." We now see that to be the case.
  • Working with partners. Pre-built integrations into EMR and other data sources are an important part of the Healthcare Cloud from ecosystem integration partners Mulesoft and Persistent Systems. Philips is providing connectivity to medical devices and also adding applications that leverage its own HealthSuite digital platform for patient data. Integration partners Accenture, Deloitte Digital and PwC are delivering services for implementation, connectivity and content management.
  • Showcasing the platform. Salesforce is making a lot of noise about the more proactive approach to healthcare that a new generation of 'digital native' consumers are demanding. It has produced research that it says shows "71 percent of millennials want doctors to provide a mobile app to actively manage their health. And 63 percent are interested in passing on data from wearables to their doctor." Whether healthcare providers are going to be ready just yet for this kind of full-on engagement with consumers is a moot point. As Newman told MedCityNews for today's launch, just getting healthcare professionals to use Chatter will be a big advance: "Nobody has '@' mentioning in healthcare." But whatever happens, Salesforce will get to show off what its platform is capable of.

My take

Phew! The industry clouds are coming thick and fast now. Does that mean Saleforce's promised public sector and life sciences clouds will also be announced in advance of Dreamforce, which begins just two weeks from now?

The most striking aspect of both today's Health Cloud announcement and of last week's Financial Cloud is that the success of each is predicated on a substantial transformation of the way their target industries work at present. These are big bets on radical change rather than incremental improvements on current practices.

In that sense, learning that you are the target of a Salesforce industry cloud is rather like that traditional Chinese curse. It signals that you work in an industry destined to live through interesting times.

Disclosure: Salesforce is a diginomica premier partner. I am traveling to Dreamforce next month as part of a paid consulting engagement with Salesforce ISV partner Vlocity.

Image credit: Medic with digital tablet and blue digital background © everythingpossible –

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