Calling All Healthcare Trailblazers: Don’t Settle for Big Tech CRM!

Gary Druckenmiller, Jr.
Mon 19 Sep 2022
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This week Salesforce hosts what’s billed as “the world’s largest software conference”: Dreamforce ‘22. It’s ironic that the company which gained notoriety by picketing Siebel Systems’ 2012 annual conference with signs that read “NO SOFTWARE” is billing its 20th annual big show as a software conference.

The reason? The “no software” message meant that, instead of having to deal with the complexity of traditional CRM software in the enterprise data center—buying, installing, configuring, and maintaining the hardware and software Siebel and other SFA (salesforce automation) and CRM platforms required at the time—Salesforce offered this unique new thing called Software as a Service (SaaS) that, today, we take for granted.

By Salesforce’s definition, “software” vs. SaaS meant your IT organization had a choice: deal with more complexity, longer time to deployment, high implementation costs, and ongoing maintenance costs for IT services and people-hours for rolling out upgrades. Or just sign up with and sign on to Salesforce via any web browser and you’re on your way to the one-to-one future.

Quite compelling at the time. But now they refer to themselves as software. That tells you how little things have changed. For healthcare marketers at provider organizations, getting Salesforce to meet your CRM requirements in 2022 can be just as astronomically expensive, complex, and time-consuming today as the old school data center approach was in 2012—only in 2022 dollars.

Is history repeating itself? It seems to be. Because today, when it comes to health clouds, the Innovaccer Health Cloud is to Salesforce what Salesforce was to Siebel Systems two decades ago. That’s why, when we’re asked if a provider should use Salesforce for healthcare, we say: “Healthcare trailblazers shouldn’t settle for Big Tech CRM!”

Trading Trade Shows

I spent the week before Dreamforce at a different trade show: #SHSMD22, the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development’s annual conference. For the uninitiated, the SHSMD is a professional membership group of the American Hospital Association, with some 4,000 members who drive marketing, digital engagement, communications, strategic planning, business development, and more across healthcare.

In other words, it’s ground zero for healthcare CRM. I estimate I spoke with over 100 providers at the conference. To my surprise (and, admittedly, to my delight), the one question I was asked more than any other was (I’m paraphrasing), “Can you help us move off our legacy and barely used CRM?”

Many of the folks on the hunt for a new CRM solution digitally waved this Modern Healthcare article at me, which wonders aloud if Salesforce is the first big tech company to have figured out healthcare. They’re not, and they haven’t.

There are several reasons why I say that—and these reasons aren’t limited to Salesforce. Nor are they a knock on Salesforce specifically, which offers, by any measure other than healthcare, an excellent CRM platform.

But Salesforce is not built for healthcare. Moreover, I argue these reasons also apply to any CRM that’s a brand or channel extension into healthcare, as opposed to a CRM built specifically and exclusively for healthcare. Here’s what I mean by that.

Healthcare Needs the Data, Not Just the Application

Remember the 1984 Wendy’s ad campaign that asked, “Where's the beef?” When it comes to healthcare CRM, you need to ask any CRM vendor, “where’s the data?” The answer for Salesforce and other traditional CRM platforms is, “we don’t have it.”

That’s because Salesforce (and other CRMs) is an application that uses a generic CRM data model versus a data and analytics platform uniquely built for healthcare. They don't have a healthcare-specific data lake. They don't have a healthcare-specific data lakehouse. Getting the data you need incurs an extra cost on top of the Salesforce application.

When you’re looking to achieve health 1-to-1, you need two things. First, yes, you need the application. Second, you need the data that powers the application. Because Salesforce only has the application, any data structure you need to build requires fully customized, boots on the ground, built from the ground up, start at ground zero work for you. Good luck scaling that over time.

Salesforce is also weak on healthcare-specific APIs, which means you need to rely heavily on third-party tools and a system integrator to do custom integrations. It doesn't have native data integration capabilities. You will have to purchase additional solutions for ETL (extract-transform-load), data search, and data staging solutions to create the integration layer between the data warehouse and CRM.

That's more costs and more people and organizations you have to deal with, and more variables that will influence success or failure in terms of time to market, and meeting the use case and operational goals.

Unlike traditional CRM vendors such as Salesforce, Innovaccer’s solution is built from the ground up for healthcare. We give you the application and the patient-centric data model and the analytics and the integrated workflows. The Innovaccer Health Cloud’s Data Activation Platform rapidly ingests (using industry standard FHIR APIs) and integrates data from all of your EHRs—no matter how many you have, no matter whether they’re from multiple vendors or across geographies or provider groups—and brings in data from other IT systems to present a complete view of the patient.

This includes third-party data, such as SDoH, community resources, public sector, consumer-generated, device generated, and more. If it’s needed to power your healthcare CRM, we can ingest it, normalize it, and activate it across your entire organization.

So what does that do? It slashes your costs and speeds time to market, because all of the data integrations to the application are done. No third-parties are required for the installation, integrations, APIs, or anything else. You’ll have one neck to choke—ours (but given our high customer satisfaction ratings, it’s doubtful you’ll ever be reaching for our neck).

Because the healthcare-specific data model is prebuilt, you can get up and running fast, for less. And if you do need customizations, our Health Cloud is designed to help you implement and meet new use cases fast.

Healthcare Needs a CRM Built for Providers, Not Merchants

If you’re a provider looking for a new CRM, partnering with a vendor who is focused on patients, and offering a CRM that’s patient-specific, are pretty obvious requirements. Healthcare shouldn’t be an after-thought, a bolt-on, a brand extension, or a channel partner program for an industry-agnostic solution that’s built to automate sales, marketing, and customer service. 

It speaks to the difference between what I call “soft” and “hard” healthcare. Salesforce (and other marketing CRMs) only deals with soft healthcare—namely, the consumer marketing part.  The hard part? It’s everything after marketing. That's where the problems (and the opportunities) exist for providers.

To meet the true requirements of healthcare CRM, a solution must provide an access center that integrates with any and all EHRs, healthcare-specific workflows, and support for transitionary care, triage, care management, care coordination, reminder services, appointment scheduling, referral management, wellness and equity management, and physician engagement. And that’s just the clinical arena.

When you step out of the clinical arena, the solution needs to support post discharge, population health analytics, value-based care analytics, ACL (access control list) management, payer management, transactions, and more. That’s the investment and domain experience required to solve real provider problems at scale (investments Innovaccer has made, and marketing CRM vendors have not).

The notion of being patient-specific—built exclusively for healthcare—is paramount if you're trying to solve the hard problems. Salesforce has had 10 years to figure out the hard stuff (as have other CRM vendors), but their core application remains a generic, marketing-centric solution without the data or the APIs to create a truly 360-degree view of the patient. Working with our provider partners, Innovaccer has cracked the code of doing the hard stuff—in addition to the soft marketing stuff—and is providing a comprehensive, all-in-one patient-centric solution today.

Fig. 1: A healthcare CRM must do “the hard stuff,” encompassing the full continuum of care, not just consumer marketing

The bottom line: To get to health 1-to-1, you need the patient-centric data model, workflows, and analytics to find, guide, and keep patients for life by treating the patient as a whole person. Not as a shopper or a buyer, but as a person.

You Need It Now, Not 18-24 Months From Now

My conversations with providers at the recent SHSMD conference were another vivid reminder of the difference between a sales and marketing CRM that’s being adapted to healthcare and one built for healthcare and only healthcare. At least five or six of the health systems I spoke to told me they were a year or more into their CRM implementation, and not even close to going live. When I asked them why, they pointed to their IT team. I drilled down further, and asked, “Does IT say it’s your problem or is it the vendor’s problem?"

You know how this story ends. To a person, their IT organizations pointed to the CRM vendor, and specifically, the vendor’s inability to natively integrate with their mission-critical clinical IT systems. Another common theme: they told me the implementation requires add-on after add-on after add-on, and a system integrator to get things, uhm, integrated.

One provider told me their IT team had five different vendors involved, in addition to the CRM vendor to make things work. Talk about complexity and vendor management! Another told me the system integrator wasn’t experienced in healthcare. Still another shared that they are looking at a minimum of a five to seven million dollar investment, and they still didn’t have their data problem sorted out. 

Virtually every provider I spoke to who was implementing or had implemented a sales and marketing CRM shared some variation of these frustrations. All of this ties back to the earlier points I made: They don’t have the data, they can’t get the data, and they can't integrate to do the hard stuff that healthcare CRM requires.

These anecdotal conversations I had with providers at SHSMD also tell us that providers, having experienced the pandemic and seen how it exposed the need to do the hard stuff from a digital transformation perspective, are starting to understand they need more than soft healthcare.

The market is moving onto the hard stuff.

Healthcare: Like No Other Market

You're not selling dishwashing detergent. You're saving lives. If you want to be a “trailblazer” to the health 1-to-1 future, your healthcare CRM should be one that was developed from the ground up around the patient. 

Before you sink a fortune in time, complexity, and tech thinking “you don’t get fired for buying a big tech CRM,” let me show you how and why leading health systems across the industry are moving to Innovaccer for their CRM—and why Innovaccer was the only hyper-growth company explicitly noted as a threat to Salesforce in that Modern Healthcare’s article I mentioned earlier.

To quote: “Salesforce faces competition in the startup world too, experts say. One company in this space, Lennox-Miller said, is San Francisco-based Innovaccer, which has raised more than $375 million and is valued at $3.2 billion.” The only other companies mentioned by name as a threat to Salesforce? EPIC and Cerner. To that, let’s just say that a recent study by Morning Consult found 58% of providers believe their EHR vendor won’t be able to support the data strategies required to thrive under value-based care.

Salesforce’s Dreamforce theme encourages attendees to “Think, Question, Celebrate, and Believe.” I encourage you to think about your health system’s and your patient’s needs; question whether you need a generic CRM or a healthcare CRM, celebrate the opportunity we offer to go beyond treating patients as shoppers and drive whole-person care; and be careful what you believe when being pitched by big tech companies on the wonderfulness of their health clouds.

Only the Innovaccer Health Cloud is purpose-built for healthcare. Are you ready to get to true health 1-to-1 at a fraction of the cost and in a fraction of the time required with a generic big tech CRM platform?

Contact me or sign up for a demo and let me show you the future of healthcare engagement.


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Tags: Healthcare
Gary Druckenmiller, Jr.
Jr., General Manager, CRM, Innovaccer

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