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Health and Safety

Northwell Health: Serving Two Million Patients, Enhancing Speed and Empathy with Salesforce Vaccine Cloud


New York’s largest health system is leveraging Salesforce’s Vaccine Cloud technology across its 23 hospitals, nearly 800 outpatient facilities, and 75,000 employees. 

We spoke with a key leader on Northwell Health’s IT engineering team, David Luft, assistant vice president for software engineering and development, to hear how delivering connected and personalized patient experiences has been critical to the organization’s success.

Q. What were some of the major challenges Northwell Health experienced as a result of the pandemic?

Patient volume, the types of patient care, and clinical concerns. As the pandemic progressed, we had to learn to rapidly adjust what we were doing to continue serving patients.

Data and analytics were also heavily impacted. Those were critical for us to understand how the pandemic was evolving and how we could improve patient treatment through physical and technological expansion. 

We also had to work at a much faster pace. It was very iterative, and we were able to leverage technology to deliver results at the pace that the business needed.

Another challenge we encountered – as I think all health systems did – was how to enable patient engagements under new visitation policies enacted by the state of New York. Suddenly, we needed to provide personalized experiences but in a digital, virtual setting. 

We quickly rolled out devices that enabled audio and video connections. Oftentimes, it was facilitated by a nurse or someone else in the hospital working one-on-one with a patient to connect with their family members. 

Q. How did Northwell Health choose Salesforce Vaccine Cloud?

We were already using Health Cloud to enable our call center agents to be more productive and have closer relationships with patients. So it was a natural choice for us to extend that work and also implement Salesforce’s new suite of solutions for vaccine management. 

Q. How did Salesforce technology help you solve some of the challenges brought on by the pandemic, especially volume?

At the beginning of the pandemic, we started using Experience Cloud to allow self-service appointment-booking for patients to schedule COVID-19 PCR testing. We also customized workflows for our call centers to help automate incoming calls. We were often handling hundreds of thousands of calls about inventory and eligibility, and had to onboard agents very quickly to meet demand. Leveraging those workflows within Salesforce gave us that capability.

We also added live chat on our website and built another patient self-scheduling application for vaccine appointments. We’ve seen thousands of appointments get booked in less than an hour. 

We also stood up Marketing Cloud to communicate with patients through email and text messaging to round out that full patient journey in a way that makes them comfortable and feel like they know what’s going on throughout the vaccination experience.

Q. From both a technology and cultural standpoint, what have you learned throughout this process, the vaccine rollout, and the pandemic? 

Our IT teams needed to work even more closely and cross-functionally together. We’ve learned that the more we can focus on a single high-priority item, the quicker we can deliver it without compromising quality, security, or scalability.

From a cultural perspective, we already had a health equity organization and strong community outreach program in place, centered on the importance of health equity, especially in minority communities. We’ve quickly set up the infrastructure and technology to support our community, whether it’s through large megapods of vaccinations or small community organizations.

We recognized that we had to really leverage key solutions, such as Salesforce, to make this happen. It wasn’t something we could take our time to do. We had to be all in. 

Q. How are you using technology to address patients’ anxiety and concerns?

Technology can’t just be efficient; it also has to be empathetic – supporting patients in whatever way they are feeling about the pandemic and trying to help them through it. 

Northwell spent a lot of time across our marketing and clinical teams trying to make sure the outreach was empathetic and would meet the patient wherever they were and at whatever moment they needed us.

“Technology can’t just be efficient; it also has to be empathetic – supporting patients in whatever way they are feeling about the pandemic and trying to help them through it.”

David Luft

Q. How has the pandemic shaped Northwell’s digital transformation initiatives?

We’ve been on a digital transformation journey for several years. What the pandemic emphasized is that you have to build and work within tight-knit, cross-functional teams. You have to make sure that everybody across the organization understands a common goal and works together to achieve it. 

The agility of Salesforce’s Platform has also been a huge benefit. Using Salesforce’s pre-built tools, we were able to pivot quickly when needed and deliver business value immediately.

Q. How will technology help Northwell Health more efficiently and accurately manage vaccination data and make data-driven decisions?

Tableau has really been a key technology for us. We’ve been using it for years. Today, it’s fundamental to the core analytics and visualizations we perform around vaccine management. We can see vaccine inventory in real time, current call center volumes, appointment bookings, and reconcile data across different sources, such as electronic medical records (EMR).

“Patients have traditionally had lower expectations for technology in healthcare than other aspects of their life. We’re in a place now where that can’t be true anymore.”

David Luft

Q. As the U.S. continues to ramp up vaccination efforts, how will technology help Northwell patients throughout the vaccine process?

We’re focused on stitching together the technology pieces so that they aren’t separate experiences. Our marketing and software development teams have worked together to make sure that if someone starts on the website but goes through SMS or email to sign up for vaccinations, that the messaging is consistent and the look and feel is familiar and comfortable. 

Patients have traditionally had lower expectations for technology in healthcare than other aspects of their life. We’re in a place now where that can’t be true anymore. That’s why Northwell is focused on delivering connected digital patient experiences that complement and tie into their physical experiences.

About Vaccine Cloud 

Vaccine Cloud is part of Salesforce’s COVID-19 response technology solutions, which include vaccine inventory management, appointment scheduling, outcome monitoring, public health outreach and more. Learn more about Vaccine Cloud here.


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