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Any healthcare provider will tell you they try to keep the patient at the center of what they do. When I was a practicing family doctor, that was my North Star. I never wanted anything to interfere with my relationships with the people I treated.

Yet outside my office, the fractured healthcare system and its outdated technologies meant patients rarely received the level of customer service they expected. And when that service is as complex and personal as healthcare, failing to meet consumer expectations not only represents a business risk, it threatens clinical outcomes as well.

Fortunately, healthcare is changing to consider the patient’s entire journey and working to unify all aspects of the system around the individual. Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), a national network of five hospitals, is one of the organizations leading the way. I spoke with Chief Information Officer Kristin Darby at the recent 2017 HIMSS Annual Conference.

Since the majority of CTCA patients self-select to receive treatment there, the organization recognized the need for change early and responded at several points along the patient journey.

Kristin explained:

“The patient has always been central to our culture. As part of that, we understand that the deeper the relationship we have with the patient, the greater our ability to provide a nurturing experience throughout their cancer journey.”

Despite understanding the need for and benefit of unifying care around the patient, the organization's legacy CRM platform lacked the necessary agility. Siloed data, technical limitations, new regulations and other shifting market conditions made it difficult to improve the business processes.

“Patient expectations around engagement, and the level and depth of knowledge we had about each other, was changing. We needed a more modern architecture that allowed us to handle simultaneous changes, be more reactive, and be more of a partner.”

CTCA now uses Salesforce to improve service in three different areas: physician referral intake; a 24/7 contact center; and, patient communities. The result is a 60% productivity boost for their technical team. One of the benefits to patients is their community platform, built on Salesforce Community Cloud, that empowers patients and families to support one another, join groups, participate in local events, find educational resources, and chat in real time. In turn, CTCA benefits from an enhanced referral process that improves customer loyalty and provides another way to communicate with patients.

I asked Kristin if she had any advice for an organization looking to make a similar transformation.

“You need to have a vision around the patient experience that’s right for your organization. What do you want to deliver? What type of relationship do you want to have over time? And as you start to get clearer about that vision… you can pick some specific use cases that are going to have some measurable impact, but also create collaboration between the technologists, business users, and clinical users to deepen the level of service. It’s a maturity journey, so smaller use cases are an easy way to generate some quick wins, prove the technology, and benefit the overall patient interaction.”

I agree with Kristin. Whether beginning with acquisition, service, or engagement, all paths lead to a better customer experience. When organizations like CTCA begin to integrate data across the organization and meet the service expectations of the healthcare consumer, they move closer to the goals of a personalized patient experience — improved quality of care, lower costs, and greater collaboration.

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