Salesforce has launched its answer to one of healthcare's major challenges: how to create a well-functioning, symbiotic relationship between patients, healthcare professionals, and increasingly complex treatment plans. Health Cloud meshes salient medical, patient, and care plan information from electronic health records (EHRs), other information systems, and medical devices onto a single platform that features a Timeline – a visual representation of a patient's care and treatment interactions over a certain period – and collaboration tools. Salesforce has been judicious in its timing and focus for Health Cloud, which launches as the clamor to move away from a record-centric form of managing health reaches an all-time high. Although there are obvious competitors, the major challenge will be the slow pace of healthcare's march toward modernization and the extent to which healthcare providers are ready to embrace new approaches.
Less EHR, more patient relationship management
Healthcare consumers will readily talk about the fantastic care they receive from individual clinicians and nurses. But when it comes to their experiences of navigating systems and the gamut of confusing medical information (or lack of it), the verdict is mostly negative. Electronic records have to some extent improved the quality and flow of information for healthcare professionals, despite groans over their usability and lack of interoperability. But the challenge of coordinating care between different healthcare organizations while empowering patients looms on the horizon.
Salesforce's Health Cloud taps into this opportunity. Some may have anticipated a product with a smart front end and a less substantial back end, but the vendor has put a lot of work into healthcare's information silo challenge. It will certainly have benefited from the expertise of one of its main partners, Philips, in the construction of its clinical data model, which is based on healthcare's new standard, Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) (see the Ovum opinion piece "FHIR: Healthcare’s new interoperability standard is gaining momentum"). Another plus is the emphasis on partnerships. The Philips relationship is strategically important, and Salesforce's strong ISV and SI connections will be critical to opening doors at healthcare providers whose view is narrowed by the vendor's "CRM" and "sales" branding.
Patient relationship management (PRM) is not a new buzz term, however. Salesforce will face significant competition from EHR vendors, especially Cerner, Epic, and Allscripts, and from cloud-based vendors like Athena and eClinicalWorks positioning their own versions of care coordination and patient engagement applications as a natural extension to those of their customers. There is a growing plethora of new vendors, such as CareSync, focusing on the PRM opportunity, while Microsoft, Caradigm, IBM et al – which bring strong analytics capabilities to the table – are also gunning for business in this space. In this respect, Salesforce's solid reputation for execution could be a core differentiator from some of its more unwieldy competitors.
"Salesforce is as much a PaaS provider as a SaaS one," IT0022-000471 (August 2015)
"The Salesforce1 platform is a powerful but complicated combination," IT0022-000492 (August 2015)
Force.com: How Salesforce's Core PaaS Solution is Evolving, T0022-000397 (August 2015)
"Philips and Salesforce join forces behind a new connected healthcare platform," IT0011-000323 (July 2014)
Effective Information Sharing in Healthcare: Challenges and Opportunities, IT0011-000324 (July 2014)
Charlotte Davies, Lead Analyst, Healthcare