Panel: Healthcare CRM Has Unique Demands

Online customer relation management (CRM) is a lucrative business.
According to Abderdeen, a provider of technology market consulting and
research, spending on CRM software applications is expected to increase by
300 percent over a four-year period.

“In 1999, $4 billion was spent on CRM software applications during,”
stated Harry Watkins, senior analyst. “That figure is expected to grow to
$12 billion by 2003.”

However, Watkins noted, CRM tools for the healthcare industry are unique.
“Most CRM software applications generally address a specific problem, such
as sales force automation or call center techniques,” he said. “There are
special challenges in managing customer relationships in a healthcare

Part of the complicity, is the vast number of elements involved in
healthcare. The healthcare field includes, patients and doctors,
pharmaceutical companies and druggists, hospitals and insurance providers.

“The Internet has narrowed the service gap for most companies, but has
created pressure for the healthcare industry, according to Rich Carroll,
vice president, health technology solutions, at Seranova, an ebusiness
consulting service. “People over 65 are fastest growing users of the
Internet as well as the biggest users of the healthcare system. Everyone
involved in the system needs to reinvent themselves.”

It comes down to understanding the needs of the constituents a Web site
aims to serve, noted George Laszlo, life sciences solutions director,
Computer Sciences Corp., a consulting and information technology services

“If you are going to be a provider of a service, you have to understand
your service,” he said. “For instance, if you are a provider to physicians
you want to be concerned with the practice, methodology, outcomes and
financial standing. The challenge is the understand their needs and provide
them with the tools they need.”

There is a great complexity to resolving the issues, observed Amir
Kishon, CEO of Softwatch, a provider of e-CRM solutions for the healthcare
arena. “If you look at the healthcare industry in an abstract way, you have
a lot of dots that you need to connect.” he said. “For sure, you need a
global communication system between the patient, physician and the insurance
provider. Once that triangle is connected, you will establish relationship
that was not there before.

“Physicians can be in touch with pharmacies and insurance companies and
pharmaceutical companies can be in touch with the patient,” he said.
“Additionally, patients and their families will be able to gain support from
others with similar experiences. This is something that has never been done
before and will revolutionize the healthcare system as we know it. ”

“Consumers are coming to expect much more personalized and interactive
Web sites that are responsive to their needs and requirements,” noted
Watkins. “As a result, pace-setting health organizations are adopting the
principles of one-to-one relationship management into their initiatives.

“The best Web initiatives will also serve to create virtual communities
and/or provide secure one-to-one consultations to enable consumers, patients
and physicians to share experiences, exchange pointers and find an emotional
or professional support network — which can be a powerful experience
particularly for users contending with chronic, uncommon or socially
isolating diseases,” he said.

“These Web-assisted relationship- and community-building methods
relationships take e-CRM to another level when it comes to healthcare,
creating a foundation for an altogether different approach better known as
e-healthcare relationship management, or eHRM.”

Watkins, Laszlo, Carroll and Amir were participants in a panel discussion
held Thursday, entitled “Going Vertical: Best Practices in Implementing
e-Health Customer Relationship Management.” The event was organized by


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