Can hospitals and other medical providers tap cloud computing to get a better picture of patients’ needs?
That’s the promise of Salesforce Health Cloud, a new service developed with the help of several leading care providers, including Centura Health, DJO Global, Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
With Health Cloud, patients will be able to access their medical community from mobile and desktop devices via the Salesforce Community Cloud that works on iOS and Android devices.
Bringing cloud services to healthcare providers is a natural progression for Salesforce.com, which pioneered cloud-based Customer Relationship Management, says Joshua Newman, a physician who heads the Health Cloud product as chief medical officer and general manager of Salesforce Health Care and Life Sciences.
“We have a huge ecosystem of healthcare customers using Salesforce and with UCSF, John Hopkins and others, we’ve shown what we can do,” Newman told eWEEK.
With Salesforce Health Cloud doctors and other health care providers will be able to see a patient’s medical history, medications and appointments.
They will be able to view other details such as recent lab results and even relevant information from providers not directly affiliated with the hospital. For example, health information from a participating chiropractor or physical therapist would show on the Facebook-like screen. Other features include screen alerts that let caregivers know about time-sensitive patient issues like missed appointments or the need to refill medications. The Salesforce Chatter social network tool is also included to give care coordinators ready access to internal conversations about specific patients across the care network.
However, Newman is quick to point out that Salesforce isn’t trying to replace health care providers’ existing big investments in health record infrastructure or compete with Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems.
“We don’t want to force a rip and replace and compete with EMRs that do important things on the backend,” says Newman. “As we’ve done elsewhere, we work with the likes of SAP and Oracle on the backend, and we’ll work with EMRs to connect and extend those systems. We do compete on some point solutions and there are some great little companies focused on things like discharge planning and diabetic care, but they can’t scale up to match what we offer.”
On the integration front, Salesforce announced that it’s working with independent software vendors (ISVs) MuleSoft and Philips as well as systems integrators Accenture, Deloitte, PwC and Persistent Systems to provide implementation services, customization, content and integration with leading medical IT systems, such as Epic, Cerner, GE Healthcare and others.
The Health Cloud also has built-in services, called Salesforce Shield, designed to help health care providers adhere to compliance standards from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Salesforce Shield includes Field Audit Trail, Platform Encryption, Data Archive and Event Monitoring. These services will enable healthcare providers to reliably manage, audit and archive patient data under current HIPAA requirements.
Previews of Salesforce Health Cloud are available as of Sept. 2 with general availability slated for February 2016.
The system is also designed to give doctors faster and better outreach to patients via their computers and mobile devices.
Salesforce said a recent survey shows that the younger generation of patients, who grew up with iPhones, Facebook and FitBit wearable activity trackers, are demanding that providers offer more tech-savvy ways of managing their care.
In the Salesforce-sponsored survey, of 1,700 Americans who have health insurance and a primary care doctor, 71 percent of those in the millennial generation said they want their doctors to provide a mobile app to actively manage their health, and 63 percent would be interested in proactively providing their health data from wearables to their doctors, so they can monitor their well-being.
Asked whether any of this will shorten time in the waiting room, Newman has a ready answer:
“In a lot of cases, you won’t have to go to the waiting room because this system is going to help you at home with more information about prevention and suggested lifestyle changes,” he said. “And you’ll be able to ask things in chat like ‘Is it okay to take this medication with milk?’-- without making an appointment or waiting on the phone line to talk to someone.”