Hospitals are sometimes viewed as cold or impersonal by patients facing long wait times on the phone and doctors too busy with administrative tasks to always give a caring focus to patient’s needs.
Salesforce.com hasn’t solved these problems, but the latest release of its Health Cloud platform aims to make the patient experience more personal.
On Aug. 18, Salesforce released a two-way video chat option for Health Cloud users that lets healthcare professionals connect directly to patients via video on Android and iOS mobile devices and share screens. Health Cloud, released earlier this year, is a patient management application designed to give healthcare providers a more comprehensive, up-to-date view of each patient’s records and care.
Hospital care team members can use the two-way video to chat with patients about their health, such as checking on a chronic condition or to discuss preventative care. Starting a video chat is simply a matter of pressing a button in the provider’s Health Cloud mobile app.
Release of the telehealth feature comes at a time when healthcare facilities are facing major challenges to keep costs down and operate more efficiently. Mobile apps that offer medical advice via a video call already exist, but they don’t include access to a patient’s complete medical history, prescriptions and treatment schedule.
“We know in-person visits are often not necessary. And patients want more convenience instead of having to wait an hour for a five-minute visit,” Doctor Joshua Newman, general manager of Salesforce Healthcare and Life Sciences, told eWEEK.
Newman says the video feature will help patients feel more connected to the healthcare provider. “When I trained as a family doctor everyone knew who their doctor was,” he added. “We want healthcare organizations to be able to give patients a personalized experience.”
The prospect of long waits also keeps some patients from seeking medical help at all, which, in some cases, leads to more serious health issues that go untreated. Health Cloud provides real-time access to a patient’s records so the healthcare provider can see quickly what medications they are using and other aspects of their care. A phone’s video camera might help an advice nurse better evaluate whether, for example, swelling in part of the body requires an in-person visit.
“We want to avoid or minimize patients going to the emergency room when they don’t need to,” says Newman.
Virtual Patient Care
While doctors can use the service, Newman sees care coordinators and other support staff as the initial target. “At launch I think it’s going to be more important for cardiac care and joint replacement, those sorts of things involving support of the patient,” he said.
In a demonstration, Salesforce showed how a care coordinator might use Health Cloud to see a patient needing follow-up: The care coordinator makes a video call that includes a chat window, where others involved in the patient’s care can participate. The patient asks questions about the time for next appointment and about rehabilitation, while the care coordinator checks the file in another window to provide answers.
Health Cloud logs that the video call was made, but the video chat itself is not recorded. Newman said eventually that might be an option.
The telehealth or video option costs Health Cloud customers $150 per user, per month. There is no charge for patients or their family members. “It’s not for everyone in the hospital, but those with direct patient engagement can use it as a more effective way like a call center to solve problems,” said Newman.
After announcing it last fall, Salesforce released Health Cloud on Feb. 29 as a system that provides a single console for managing patient care. Healthcare teams can create customized plans for individual patients and more easily manage groups of patients with similar conditions, such as those with diabetes or high blood pressure.
Because it’s cloud-based, both caregivers and patients can access Health Cloud from mobile devices to send and receive messages, get reminders or access surveys and other content designed to encourage them to meet their health goals.
A recent Salesforce-sponsored survey showed consumer interest in virtual care services and video calls for non-urgent matters. In the survey of more than 2,000 patients currently with health insurance and a primary care provider in the United States, 62 percent said they would be open to such options as a video conference call for non-urgent issues.