The value of connectivity in healthcare

Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, Random House, American Red Cross, Zimmer (a medical app developer), Virgin America, GE, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Chipotle and NBC Universal–it must be difficult to imagine what can bring all these organizations together.

Last Friday, they were all at a customer conference in New York City hosted by Salesforce, a technology company that provides digital marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) solutions.

Besides the organizations I mentioned above, there are more companies in almost every industry that are currently using Salesforce’s products. It is an eye-opening experience to see how diverse Salesforce’s clientele is.

If you are not familiar with Salesforce, its product portfolio may seem a little complicated. But ultimately what the company is trying to offer is one thing–to connect with your customers–whether they are consumers, donors, policy makers, physicians or other businesses. That is why a Fortune 500 company and a local restaurant can both find Salesforce helpful. All Salesforce’s products are focused on making the connectivity happen–from identifying the relevant audience and conversations (digital and social media listening), developing relevant content (digital and social publishing), ensuring cost-effective message delivering (digital marketing and advertising), generating new leads (sales support) to facilitating sustainable client relationships (customer service support). This strategy has been helping Salesforce grow rapidly–according to Forbes, the company has seen double-digit year-over-year revenue growth for the past four quarters.

Salesforce's customer meeting in New York City featured an Apple-style keynote speech, a series of town hall meetings and an exhibition

Salesforce’s customer meeting in New York City featured an Apple-style keynote speech, a series of town hall meetings and an exhibition

Making connections is part of the nature of human society. It is the connectivity among individuals that keeps the world moving. One of the fundamental changes that the digital and social media era has brought to us is that making connectivity has never been easier. We perceive the world differently when new connectivity emerges.

In healthcare, new connectivity reshapes relations among stakeholders and changes how we think about health.

Healthcare is complex. This is largely because healthcare is highly fragmented—each sector thinks others are the problems and each builds its own solutions based on its own partial visions. The connectivity among stakeholders on a higher level obviously is lacking. Connectivity in healthcare is in different dimensions. For example, patients need to connect with physicians, healthcare providers need to connect with payers, pharmaceutical companies need to connect with both consumers and HCPs, and government agencies need to connect with institutions. The complexity presents significant challenges for stakeholders in healthcare to understand each other and thus to work harmoniously and deliver the most ideal outcomes.

Building the connectivity is key to success.

Connectivity is essential to bridge stakeholders in fragmented sectors and drive efficiency and outcomes in Healthcare

Ultimately, what we are trying to do in healthcare is not so much different than other industries—to efficiently deliver a service (healthcare) to as many customers as possible. In doing so, we are trying to establish, nurture, strengthen and expand the connectivity. In healthcare communication, we use services such as Radian 6,  a social media monitoring tool to understand how patients, physicians, advocacy groups and medical news media outlets perceive certain medical conditions or treatments; for providers, electronic medical record (EMR) system is being used to understand how better and more efficient care can be delivered to patients; sales reps rely on mobile devices and cloud technologies to communicate with HCPs and drive sales. These efforts have been making positive impact. However, the fragmentation in healthcare is not going to disappear if each sector only focuses on improving the connectives within its boundary.

What struck me the most at Salesforce’s customer conference is that the business context is truly changing—old boundaries between industries are blurred as technologies disrupted the old structures based on which they function. Healthcare is not immune to the change. The rise of biotech, the unavoidable healthcare reform, the patent cliff, the digital health movement and the participatory medicine trend are partially or all the results of the disruption. To capitalize on the shift, we need to adapt to the new system and establish new connectivity that drives efficiency, efficacy and patient outcomes.

What this means is a CEO of a hospital or a leader of a pharma company may have something to learn from a successful local Chinese takeout restaurant.

(Disclosure: the author is a client of Salesforce’s Market Cloud Service)

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