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Florida hospice saves with SAAS-based CRM

Tidewell Hospice also gains efficiency and visibility with Salesforce.com

By , Network World
June 06, 2011 12:08 AM ET
David Lafferty

Network World - When David Lafferty arrived at Tidewell Hospice two years ago as the care provider's first CIO, customer relationship management was a bit of what he calls a "milk crate" operation.

"Our liaisons were going from account to account with their own little binders, spreadsheets and rolodexes. We had a typical offline, manual, decentralized, zero-visibility situation," he recalls.

How to become SaaS savvy

Now, Tidewell, which serves 8,000 families annually in four Florida counties, has one of the most sophisticated CRM implementations in the hospice industry. Tidewell uses Salesforce's SaaS-based CRM, integrated with its internal electronic medical record (EMR) system.

The `aha' moment for Tidewell was the realization that it didn't need a high-priced, hospice-oriented package - a longstanding misconception, Lafferty says.

"Our CRM needs are really almost the same as those in any other industry, just called different things," he says. "We build relationships with physician practices. We educate and develop those relationships into leads. We get referrals. We admit those referrals as patients, and then administer care to them. When a patient dies, we facilitate grief and bereavement counseling and, should the family wish, take advantage of philanthropic or donation opportunity.

"That sounds an awful lot like opportunity, contact, quote, order, fulfill, ship," the typical components of a CRM-based workflow, he says.

Once Tidewell decided to adopt generic CRM, the next decision was on premises, a CRM add-on from its existing EMR provider, or SAAS.

Salesforce.com won out, and cost had a lot to do with the decision, Lafferty says.

"While I can't talk in hard, fast dollars, I can tell you that the cost to run Salesforce for a year, with about 70 or so users today, is probably a little over a third the cost of some of the typical hardware/software solutions we had quotes on," he says.

However, there is a caveat, he says: "Salesforce provides us with beneficial pricing because we're a nonprofit organization. If that had not been the case, those economics would have been very different."

Of course, Tidewell must comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rules - and the cloud computing concept gave folks pause, Lafferty says.

"Historically, all the data we cared about, so to speak, was in one system - our EMR system - on one database, in one data center, in one building. Conceptually it was easy for our IT and compliance teams to own, manage and protect that data. So at first, when we talked about keeping our information in the cloud, we needed to do a lot of education on Salesforce.com's approach to security, disaster recovery and so on," he says.

Unidentified cloud-based objects

In addition, Tidewell has implemented CRM so that when liaisons create patient information in Salesforce no unique identifiers get attached to those records. "Clinical info stays in the EMR, the system of record for that data. We bring over patient activity, I'll call it, just so we have the benefit of that census data from a reporting standpoint. But that's all there is in the CRM," he says.

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