Health IT

Salesforce CMO: Technology is here to solve healthcare’s longstanding problems

In a phone interview, Salesforce CMO Joshua Newman discussed why he’s positive about the convergence of healthcare and technology.

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Salesforce is advancing its presence in the healthcare space.

In a phone interview, Salesforce Chief Medical Officer Joshua Newman outlined why he’s optimistic about the company’s Health Cloud platform, its recent initiatives and how technology in healthcare can be used for collective gain.

This exchange has been lightly edited.

Salesforce doesn’t only work in healthcare. What prompted the company to move into the healthcare space?

The thing most people don’t know is that we’ve been in healthcare for our entire existence. We started out selling tools to pharma companies and device companies. Payers were also using us to sell to groups and employers. Everyone was using us for sales.

The motivation to do the kinds of things we’re talking about with Health Cloud came from seeing a whole bunch of customers taking Salesforce, customizing it and using it with patients.

What sets Health Cloud apart from similar solutions or competitors?

As far as who the other players are, they’re the big EMR vendors. They’re the little startups. There are some other big technology companies out there. We sit in between all of them. We have a sweet spot between the root level servers and a fully purpose-built application. We have the flexibility but also the enterprise credibility.

The crux of why we’re different is we’re multi-tenet, cloud-based and have the agility and flexibility to have that engagement layer. Salesforce can sell to hotels, manufacturers and healthcare, and that’s a testament to the flexibility.

This year, New York City-based Mount Sinai tapped Salesforce for its solution, which it’s using to help Medicaid recipients. What’s the background behind this collaboration?

In order to keep people out of the hospital, [Mount Sinai] knew they had to connect with patients and also engage with community health professionals. They decided to use Health Cloud to bring together all these constituents, including 350,000 patients, 500 of their own care coordinators and 2,000 physicians. They’re not only doing this with primary care doctors and hospitals. They’re working with community organizations such as Meals on Wheels. It takes all of these different organizations to keep any individual out of the hospital.

Salesforce recently announced the addition of two new features to Health Cloud: Health Cloud Empower and Concurrent Care Plans. Could you talk about these features?

The background is that when we launched Health Cloud, we only had single care plans. Now after not even a year and a half, we have this whole new capacity.

Everyone in the past used to have a single care plan for a patient. With Concurrent Care Plans, now we’re able to separate those care plans. What that opens up is the opportunity to standardize workflows across any domain.

And here’s another piece — a lot of these things have never been codified before. It existed only in the heads of great nurses and doctors. You can customize them and you can also standardize them. Very few organizations have the wherewithal to do it themselves.

Health Cloud Empower is a description of our patient-facing mobile application. We all see the same stats — mobile use is far exceeding laptop and desktop use. We wanted to build a tool that would enable us to project all that data to the patients or partners, like home health aides and family members.

It also allows us to customize it. Now the hospital system can deliver patient education that’s unique to one’s condition.

What else is Salesforce doing in the healthcare space?

We do have a significant partnership program with about 100 different companies. We have these partnerships and we make our partners succeed.

The other thing to mention is there’s a lot of churn and chaos in the market right now. We see time and time again that the organizations that deliver value to their customers will have the best outcomes and best efficiency. Amid this chaos, we’ve never been more optimistic than we are now. We’re seeing a lot of innovation. Technology is here to solve a bunch of important problems that healthcare has not yet tackled.

Salesforce is working to bridge the gap between patients, providers and payers. Why are these relationships key at a time like this?

When I trained as a family doctor, we were trained to do everything from mental health to rehab to weight loss. We know now that it is not a good model. It’s not a safe model, and it’s certainly not an efficient model.

What we see now is everyone’s specializing. The imperative right now is to work together as teams. It takes a village.

The only way to successfully manage that is to use technology to bring everyone together. All of this is happening at a time when healthcare is just waking up to the fact that we have this digital technology in our pockets.

Photo: Filograph, Getty Images