Salesforce.com announced its Salesforce Health Cloud last September, giving potential customers a chance to kick the tires while the company made some final tweaks before its full official release Feb. 29 at the HIMMS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) conference in Las Vegas.
Salesforce also shared more Health Cloud details and partnership news. Salesforce is pitching Health Cloud as a way for hospitals and doctors to focus more on patients and less on record keeping and management. Health Cloud puts all patient information in one place and integrates with a hospital's existing Electronic Health Records (EHR) system, making real-time patient data accessible from any device.
While tailored to health care, the new cloud service is essentially designed to bring some of the same benefits Salesforce's cloud CRM system has already brought to other industries.
For example, Dr. Joshua Newman, a physician who heads the Health Cloud product as chief medical officer and general manager of the Salesforce Health Care and Life Sciences group, said Salesforce itself was able to reduce email and the need to constantly check the inbox by 40 percent with the addition of Saleforce's Chatter tool, a social media collaboration system designed for the enterprise.
In the case of Health Cloud, Newman said hospital personnel will be able to share information about patients more easily online using Chatter and other tools to exchange information. "We designed it to be like the Mayo Clinic, which is famous for bringing everyone in the room to talk about a patient," Newman told eWEEK. "Now they can do it with an electronic tool regardless of where they are."
Two other key features of Health Cloud concern patient management and engagement. Rather than navigating a hodgepodge of different systems, Health Cloud offers a single console for managing patients. Care teams can take action on open tasks, create customized care plans for individual patients and more easily manage groups of patients with similar conditions, such as those with diabetes or high blood pressure.
As far as engagement, caregivers and patients can access Health Cloud from any device to send and receive messages, and get reminders as well as surveys and other content designed to encourage them to meet their health goals.
Some hospitals already offer online portals where patients can make appointments and communicate with their doctors, but Newman said Health Cloud improves on the portal idea.
"Portals are okay, but they're not used that much and a lot of the people that do use them do the minimum requirement," he said. By contrast, he described Health Cloud as creating a more dynamic communications system that can be easily updated with new information on things like education services and nutrition information.
Customers already implementing Salesforce Health Cloud include The Genen Group, a multi-specialty mental health practice in California. The Genen Group is using Health Cloud to develop a mobile application that lets patients verify their insurance benefits in real time, view out-of-pocket expense estimates and immediately schedule an appointment from their mobile device.
It also lets Genen Group clinicians check in with patients through push notifications, with the aim of helping them make smarter decisions about their care.
Another Health Cloud partner is Philips, which is bringing its Philips Healthsuite to Health Cloud. Healthsuite is a digital platform for personal and medical device connectivity, advanced data analytics and clinical data designed to foster more collaboration between patients and care providers.
Apigee, Catalyze, Jitterbit, MuleSoft and Redox are also announcing services to integrate Health Cloud with leading EHRs to ensure that patient information can be managed and viewed within the Health Cloud console.
Salesforce's investment in the HIMMS conference is a measure of how big an impact it thinks Health Cloud will have.
"It will be the biggest third-party event in our company's history," said Newman. "In the past, we might have had a meeting room, now we're going to have a booth, a lounge offsite and a huge launch party on March 2."