Play it safe.
Better safe than sorry.
You don’t get fired for buying IBM.
You don’t get fired for using (insert your organization’s EHR brand here) for your CRM.
Classic maxims many executives and IT leaders live by. But should they? When it comes to choosing a Customer Relationship Management solution today, the answer is simple.
A better maxim for healthcare leaders would be “look before you leap.” While you might not get fired for using your EHR’s add-in “CRM module” as your CRM, you will end up with a CRM solution that doesn’t make your consumers cheer. Or your CFO.
That’s because the EHR wasn’t designed to deliver the business-building power you expect from a CRM. The reason: Their focus. As we all know, the EHR was designed to move the industry from paper charts to electronic health records. That focus has been a resounding success. More than 94% of healthcare organizations now use EHRs.
But 29 years after Peppers and Rogers introduced the one-to-one future, 14 years after the term “healthcare consumerism” entered the vernacular, and nearly three years since the pandemic exposed healthcare’s broken digital consumer underbelly (exposing the need to accelerate innovation and digital transformation), major EHR vendors are only now fleshing out their first attempts to respond to consumerism with bolt-on CRM solutions.
Is it safe to go all-in on a CRM from a vendor whose core competency is electronic health records? That’s not unlike buying into Shimmer, the dessert topping that was also a floor polish. That lack of focus, that 40-plus years of sunk costs into EHR as a core competency, is a huge risk that’s obscured by the deep investments and relationships healthcare organizations have established with their EHR vendors.
However, knowing full well the limitations of the EHR, the question must be asked: is it risky to innovate on a contemporary CRM platform that works with your EHRs? Or is it risky to bet on a CRM ßeta test built on 1980’s-era innovation? Sure, you can check the CRM box by pouring more dollars into an existing EHR relationship. But when it comes to choosing a CRM solution, what feels like a safe bet—doubling-down on your EHR investment—isn’t the smart bet.
It’s crucial to invest in the future, in true digital transformation that will delight consumers as well as the marketing and finance departments, and your clinicians, as opposed to taking the safe but certainly not smart path. Here’s why.
UNPRECEDENTED TIMES CALL FOR UNPRECEDENTED ACTION
Ask yourself if your organization can afford not to look beyond your EHR vendor’s CRM offering. Would it be wise to consider those who specialize in CRM? Given the unprecedented financial and operational pressures providers, hospitals, and health systems are under today, it’s crucial to ensure the CRM you settle on is a bona-fide business builder, with high ROI.
Unlike the COVID pandemic, providers can’t count on federal and state agencies to shore up their finances as the economy takes a nosedive, elective procedures continue to wane, bad debts grow, operational and CapEx costs climb, staffing shortages worsen along with rising labor costs, and so on.
In fact, hospitals are facing their worst year financially since the start of the pandemic, according to the American Hospital Association. When it comes to healthcare, you can’t cost-cut your way out of a pandemic or a recession. You must find ways of running more efficiently and differentiating yourself from the pack by giving consumers a more satisfying end-to-end experience—one that results in higher patient retention and market share gains.
Meanwhile, a new generation of innovative healthcare providers and consumer-savvy retailers are leveraging the latest CRM technologies to outperform and outcompete entrenched providers who, in the main, wrongly believe they can rely on their system of record—the EHR—to drive consumer engagement that activates markets and builds the business.
Certainly the chaos and losses healthcare endured during the first year of the pandemic had never been seen before. But there was a silver lining to that dark cloud. Congress, the states, and the White House (both the Trump and Biden Administrations) swung into action and authorized policies that eased the financial burden on providers—even to the extent of forgiving most if not all of the loans.
Those unprecedented actions helped alleviate the fiscal impact of revenue loss due to delays in non-urgent care, and costs associated with COVID-19. But these emergency acts can’t be counted on as we head into the uncertainty of the 2023 economy and beyond.
Healthcare organizations today need to plan for the worst case scenario. Attempting to leverage the EHR as a CRM platform, simply because it’s your system of record and you have a great relationship with the vendor, is “hiring” the wrong system for the wrong job. If we are going to put the patient first—which is what CRM is all about—then we need to fuse the best our EHRs can be with the best CRM technology available. And that takes us right back to focus and core competencies.
EIGHT FACTORS TO CONSIDER IN YOUR CRM DECISION
Let’s drill into specific technical aspects that EHR administrators and C-suite healthcare leaders in general need to know, so they can look beyond their EHR for CRM capabilities with confidence. Here are the top eight arguments.
One additional comment on the changing retail landscape of healthcare and its relation to CRM: We won’t see Walmart or Walgreens or CVS getting into secondary or tertiary care. They're not getting into orthopedic visits and surgeries and cancer care or nephrology or other specialities. They're doing primary care, end of story. They're going after the low hanging fruit, because there's higher out-of-pocket spend from consumers, now that deductibles are through the roof.
By embracing a true healthcare CRM, you have the opportunity not only to compete head-to-head with these new entrants, but to own it all—find, guide, and keep patients for life. You can earn the same level of trust and satisfaction that these giant retailers enjoy, but do it in healthcare.
YOU DON’T GET FIRED FOR PLAYING IT SMART
I’ll say it again. When it comes to choosing a healthcare CRM solution, the safe bet isn’t the smart bet. The smart bet is the safe bet—choosing a contemporary, cloud-native CRM that has no trouble connecting to multiple EHRs and other IT solutions, and is built to find, guide, keep, and delight patients for life (not to mention delighting clinicians and healthcare marketers).
Your EHR is a great clinical tool. It’s your system of record. But CRM is about your patients as consumers. What about them? Can your EHR ingest and master consumer and provider data to power sophisticated, clinically contextual engagement strategies? Can it interoperate with your martech stack? Can it help you measure and optimize ROI across all engagement efforts? Can it integrate without hiring a costly system integrator? Can it do all of this in months, not years?
Your patients are only patients 1% of the time. They're consumers 99% of the time. You need the “consumer 360” profile to engage them as non-patients too. That’s the path to the patient satisfaction and consumer loyalty that drives financial strength and business stability in an uncertain economy.
I’ll leave it at this: I’ll wager you wouldn’t even consider an EHR or even an EHR add-on toolfrom a CRM or RCM vendor. You’re after core competency. So why consider a CRM add-on from an organization whose core competency is the EHR?
At a minimum, given the economic future we seem to be facing, and the need to electrify the consumer experience, conduct the due diligence and talk to the leading healthcare CRM vendors (of which we are one that I hope you’ll consider).
Play it smart. You won’t be sorry, and your patients (and CFO) will thank you!