CRM Is a Verb, Not a Noun
// By Jared Johnson //
Ask the Expert, with Alan Tam, Vice President of Marketing, Actium Health
This month’s featured expert believes that CRM implementations in healthcare should deliver on business metrics that matter — revenue growth, cost reduction, patient outcomes, and ROI.
In healthcare, CRM is often referred to as the software itself — as a noun — versus the activity of managing customers — a verb. In some cases, it’s a checkbox for a technology neither mapped to organizational goals nor mapped to driving metrics that matter to the health system.
Innovative health systems have started adopting CRM intelligence, which turns data insights into action via proactive outreach — in a sense, turning CRM into a verb. Healthcare needs intelligence that unlocks the value of existing data — identifying and predicting patient needs to recommend the next best action or step for every individual.
Alan Tam, vice president of marketing at Actium Health, recently spoke with me about CRM intelligence and how it can guide health systems to a new level of results.
eHST: In general, what’s the “state of the state” of healthcare CRM today?
AT: In healthcare, CRM is often referred to as the software itself — as a noun — versus the activity of managing customers — a verb. In several instances, it’s a checkbox for a technology neither mapped to organizational goals nor mapped to driving metrics that matter to the health system. On several occasions, I have heard healthcare marketers describe CRM as a tool that helps them build, manage, and report on campaigns and their effectiveness, which is really marketing automation, not CRM.
eHST: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the use of CRM over the past two to three years?
AT: Industry leaders have recognized that CRM is a verb rather than a noun, and have applied artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to their CRM strategy. In the rare instance of a successful CRM implementation, the patient 360 has further frustrated health system leaders by leading them to think, “Now what? I have this view, but now what am I supposed to do? Which patients should I reach out to? When should I reach out to them? What should I say? What’s the call to action?”
Innovative health systems have started adopting the concept of CRM intelligence, which turns data insights into action via proactive outreach — in a sense, turning CRM into a verb. Healthcare needs intelligence that unlocks the value of their existing data — identifying and predicting patient needs to recommend the next best action or step for every individual.
eHST: What are healthcare organizations doing well with CRM?
AT: I have yet to hear about an effective and successful CRM implementation in healthcare where the solution is delivering on the business metrics that matter — be it revenue growth, cost reduction, patient outcomes, or ROI.
eHST: Where are healthcare organizations struggling with CRM?
AT: Measurement, metrics, and ROI. Where does a CRM fit in a system? Is the single source of truth the EMR or is it the CRM? How, where, and what role does a CRM system play in achieving the business objectives? How is it measured? What’s the ROI? When we look at the initiatives and business objectives of health systems, leaders have a difficult time addressing the aforementioned questions and measuring the effectiveness of the tool.
eHST: Tell us more about the concept of CRM intelligence. What is it, and how can it be useful to health systems?
AT: CRM intelligence trains AI on a health system’s disparate patient data sets to predict and prioritize patient audiences for outreach and a call to action. This includes automatically, and intelligently, reaching out to patients to drive them towards action. It helps health systems avoid over-communication and deliver consistent, predictable appointment bookings that won’t overwhelm system capacity and appointment inventory. It enables healthcare marketers to see the results of their campaigns and demonstrate the value of their activities to drive revenue and improve patient outcomes.
“I have heard healthcare marketers describe CRM as a tool that helps them build, manage, and report on campaigns and their effectiveness, which is really marketing automation, not CRM.”
Alan TamActium Health
In short, it extends the value of healthcare CRM to deliver what both health systems and their patients really need: the right message, automatically delivered the right way, at the right time, to influence and activate them to perform a task, like booking an appointment.
eHST: When organizations use CRM intelligence successfully, what kinds of results can they expect?
AT: When CRM intelligence is successfully implemented, healthcare marketers, service line leaders, and medical group leaders are able to directly measure and report on the impact of their outreach campaigns on appointment bookings and encounters, which translates directly to revenue growth/impact and ROI for the solution.
They can also expect a predictable and consistent stream of patient volume that optimizes to provider capacity and appointment inventory such that neither call centers nor providers are overwhelmed with the influx of patients.
For healthcare consumers, they can expect a better experience in seeking care and booking appointments vs. encountering the lack of available appointments and not getting through to an overwhelmed call center.
eHST: Any tips for getting internal buy-in for a CRM buying decision?
AT: The most important aspect of getting internal buy-in for CRM intelligence is making sure the key stakeholders responsible for outpatient volume and/or appointment bookings are champions for the solution. Ultimately, the solution will be driving revenue and ROI, impacting top-line growth.
Healthcare marketers are typically the users of the CRM intelligence solution, but the directive and initiatives of outpatient volume growth and/or appointment bookings typically reside outside of marketing. For the rare system that doesn’t have any issues with outpatient volume, a CRM intelligence solution ensures that your most valuable and highest-risk patients are prioritized for outreach, which drives both immediate and downstream revenue.
eHST: What trends are you keeping your eye on?
AT: Healthcare consumerism, retail health, proactive AI-driven communications, how healthcare marketing is measured, and driving revenue.
eHST: If you had one message to share with every marketing executive at every hospital and health system, what would it be?
AT: Is marketing a cost center or revenue engine? Leverage your existing patient data sets to drive patient activation via proactive patient outreach. By patient activation, I’m specifically referring to reaching out to the right patients and driving them to book appointments. If you can track and measure how your outreach is converting existing patients to booked appointments/encounters, that is a direct impact to top-line revenue growth. Activating existing patients vs. new-patient acquisition can also be 10X less costly — that’s a direct impact to the bottom line.
eHST: Anything else that would be useful for healthcare executives to keep in mind regarding CRM?
AT: Patient engagement is no longer enough. Open rates, clicks, and impressions don’t translate to revenue growth. Patient activation and driving patient volume through appointment bookings is the sport of today.
Email Alan Tam at email@example.com.
Jared Johnson is an award-winning content producer for innovative healthcare brands. He is host of the long-running Healthcare Rap Podcast, and a member of the eHealthcare Strategy & Trends Editorial Advisory Board.