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What is a healthcare CRM? (and how does it fit in with my systems?)


August 25, 2020

What is a healthcare CRM? (and how does it fit in with my systems?)

A CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) is a database of potential and current customers that is combined with automation tools to manage interactions and relationships.

A healthcare CRM is a database of patients that automates health care access and closes gaps in care. It optimizes service delivery for patients by orchestrating capacity for operations. It is context-aware and guides staff all the way through a simple holistic workflow whether the need is patient onboarding, imaging, pharmacy, care coordination, and more. As the result, patients receive a safe, secure, and personalized experience for every interaction with their healthcare organization.

What Types of CRM are there?

Sales CRM

cuadro2@2xThese tools automate emails, outbound calls, and other contact points with prospective or existing customers. The term “CRM” started with sales database and automation tools in the 1970’s that tracked interactions with potential clients. The goal is to keep prospects engaged and move them through defined relationship stages for measurement, predictability, and automation.

Marketing CRM

Cuadro1@2xLater, Marketing CRMs brought significant disruption to what had historically been a very creative vertical with data analytics and marketing automation. Marketing CRMs use quantitative analytics to automate advertisements, messaging, email, and content to move prospects through a “funnel.” The goal is to deepen each person's relationship, brand awareness, and trust of the organization. Given the overlap between marketing and sales, these CRMs are now often integrated.

A few dominant sales and marketing CRM companies are Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, and Oracle.

Service CRM

graphic-3Service CRM tracks and automates the provisioning and delivery of services. These products focus on capturing, documenting and triaging the clients’ needs, then procuring and scheduling resources to address each need.
These platforms include sophisticated tools including AI, project management, and big data optimization to smooth specialized workflows. Such service-side automation focuses on managing the workforce and estimating throughput. Most major corporations use a service CRM alongside sales and marketing CRMs.

Names such as BMC Software, ServiceNow, Attlassian, and Zendesk are at the forefront.

What makes a Healthcare CRM


Healthcare CRM is a service CRM for the practice of medicine

Cobbling multiple tools together into a digital front door is not enough. The "front door" will lead nowhere unless the delivery of service is optimized and streamlined. Keona Care Desk is both the front door to all healthcare services and the organizer of capacity and service flow. It was built by healthcare experts for healthcare providers, and is a holistic, HIPAA compliant telehealth solution. Its tools are designed to deliver informed and insightful resolutions across all patient needs and integrates with existing EHRs, PMs, telephone systems, and more.

Providing top-quality patient access to care is the founding principle behind Care Desk. It brings automation to services such as answering patient questions, scheduling appointments, and triaging symptoms over telephone, chat, SMS, or web.

See The Ultimate Guide to improving access, revenues, and outcomes with telehealth

What are the biggest issues unique to healthcare?

There are several critical healthcare issues that no other CRM software but Care Desk addresses. First, Care Desk has service delivery automation tools. For example, helping a patient schedule an appointment is a complex process; the patient doesn’t know the type of visit, available time slots, or how to code it for insurance, but the healthcare CRM does.

Second, Care Desk was not created to close deals, but to close gaps in care. It connects and coordinates everyone who delivers service. It is built around understanding and addressing both patient and organizational needs. This makes it less “pushy” than sales and marketing CRMs.

Third, Care Desk is tailored for contact centers and help queues. For example, it can walk an agent through any inbound question on a single screen.

Traditionally, in order to safely schedule a patient, the healthcare agent must:

  1. Conduct an initial review of patient symptoms
  2. If the symptoms were urgent, the agent would need to forward the call to a nurse or a physician to triage the patient
  3. The nurse or physician would have to document their triage results, including any care advice and health education they provided
  4. If a visit was determined to be appropriate, the nurse or agent would still have to 
  • Determine the type of visit
  • Select the patient insurance
  • Search the PM for the nearest available opportunity and match that to the patient’s availability
  • Check the provider’s visit requirements that the visit slot they find
  • Document the above steps within the visit note

How Do Automation Tools Help?


Keona's Care Desk products can help:

Example workflow with lots of automation

Here is an example of how healthcare CRM automates patient access over the telephone. 

When a call comes in, Care Desk pops open and the agent is automatically signed-in. The page is pre-populated with relevant data:

  • The EHR is searched based on the patient’s phone number, and relevant matches are ready for the agent to choose
  • Knowledge base content loads based on the telephone line called
  • Call types are filtered and pre-selected based on the telephone line called and IVR choices made by the caller
  • Symptom Checker questions and workflows are automatically filtered based on the patient demographics and location

Each of these bullet points is a step your agents don't have to do!

After pulling in all relevant context from the EHR and other systems, Care Desk provides comprehensive guidance:

  • For appointments, Intelligent Scheduling guides the user to the right appointment, using patient’s geo-location, insurance, matching provider preferences, stepping users through even complex multi-resource or multi-visit appointments
  • When symptoms are mentioned, agents type whatever patients utter, misspellings are no problem
  • Direct agents to the right acuity, indicating what is most appropriate, be that be an appointment, nurse triage, 911, and so on.
  • It automatically documents everything in the patient’s chart and appointment as appropriate
  • Robust scripting and branching guide the agent through the workflow appropriate to the combination of acuity, patient demographic, location, service line, and time of day
  • Provider paging is built-in for specialty triage or after-hours paging
  • For nurse triage, it can forward directly to a nurse with pre-loaded triage protocols, care advice, and health information
  • For Service Referrals, it takes into account the patient’s geo-location and distance calculations
  • Patients can be sent secure messages with pre-visit data and health information specific to their symptoms

This means no more bouncing between 4-8 applications, or following the wrong workflow, or patient requests falling through the cracks. Easily give top-notch experience in one single, guided flow.

Agents aren’t the only ones benefiting from a holistic system. Managers benefit from:

  • Ability to customize workflows and content
  • Real-time oversight shows summary statistics and activity per queue
  • Historical reports present symptom searches and trends
  • “Anatomy of an encounter” performance reports facilitate detailed coaching of users, teams, and shifts
  • Population trends mapped to zip code
  • Business Intelligence tools that allow business users to create reports without the assistance of IT or programmers

Most health care executives don't have access to the metrics that matter. Neither do their managers. With Care Desk, have them at your fingertips at any moment's notice.

By smoothing the path for your agents, Care Desk builds a bridge to provider satisfaction and patient happiness.

The Purpose of a Healthcare CRM

A healthcare CRM makes every patient interaction personalized and supportive. It focuses on the role of the schedulers, nurses, and contact centers in addressing the following problems:

  • Reason for contact
  • Understanding the patient context
  • Utilizing knowledge management during a conversation
  • Checking symptoms by nonclinical agents
  • Nurse triage and dispositions
  • Matching complicated scheduling requirements
  • Managing contact and issue queues
  • Refilling prescriptions
  • Allocating resources to address patient need quickly
  • Delivering health education and information in any format patient needs
  • Providing health information in whatever format patient needs
  • Conducting telemedicine visits

How is my existing CRM different?


Many health care organizations use a sales and marketing CRM. As discussed earlier, this is a database that manages the relationship progression of customers along a path or “funnel.” It does this by focusing on the roles of sales, marketing, and care coordination, addressing problems like:

  • Identifying opportunities
  • Segmenting potential customers
  • Communicating your messages based on persona
  • Distribute content to customers via multiple channels
  • Use analytics to learn which messages work best
  • Guide potential customers through a journey of discovery and choice
  • Manage channels and salesforce pipeline

Why are sales and marketing CRMs in healthcare?


Sales and Marketing CRMs are critical to reputation management, community outreach, and growth. Because they have tools to automate outbound education and outreach, they are often used to connect with and guide potential patients. They are also helpful in automating patient pathways through services that have pre-defined stages. For example, a sales and marketing CRM might be used for discharge and then move a patient through a care plan, timeline, and offer education.

We have an electronic health record (EHR). This already is a database of patients!


On the surface, an EHR is very similar; it is a database of patients and their medical records. However, its tools and automation are built to facilitate clinicians with:

  • Documentation
  • Orders
  • Prescriptions
  • Alerts and tasks
  • Chart outcomes
  • Meeting regulatory requirements

Most EHRs aren’t designed to help coordinators guide patients through set stages and they they don’t have automation to facilitate non-clinical users or nurses to provide services. Even though some train their users to use the EHR software this way, it is still incredibly clunky and inefficient.

My (EHR/CRM) vendor said they were the only tool we will ever need!


While they may believe this, the truth is that shoehorning healthcare problems into a tool designed for a different purpose is frustrating for users; modifying it is very difficult and expensive. Today, all forward-thinking systems support multiple solutions, integrations, and data exchanges.

Care Desk integrates with an incredible number of systems, including EHRs as well as sales and marketing CRMs (see Integration). It incorporates information into a single contact center flow while also allowing those systems to incorporate Keona Health capabilities into their original workflow.

Why there are so many tools

Different tools, different users

Software User
Electronic Health Record for clinicians
Practice Management for billing
Sales CRM for sales
Marketing CRM for marketers
Healthcare CRM for healthcare contact centers

Software with an intuitive interface streamlines workflow and minimizes clicks. Ironically, the better the software, the clunkier it is when used outside its intended application.

Different users means different automation*

  EHR/PM S&M CRM Healthcare CRM
Provider, in-person tasks
(orders, prescriptions, etc.)
Automated outreach tasks
(patient segmentation, automated outreach, etc.)
Providers, Nurses, Schedulers, Agents (Telehealth, patient access, triage, scheduling, prescriptions, etc…)     X

*see detailed table of specific automations above

Care Desk integrates with your existing EHR, PM, CRM, telephone software, communication software and more.

User Interface

Care Desk was developed with the intention of duplicating the in-person office visit experience to the digital environment.

  • Check in with a non- clinical agent who registers the patient, verifies insurance, gathers information about social determinants, and skillfully determines the reason for visit or in this case the call. Care Desk ensures that scope of practice regulations are adhered to and that only clinicians offer clinical advice.
  • Symptomatic calls are assigned an acuity derived from approved algorithms and either directly transferred to specially trained RN for a triage or assigned to the most appropriate queue for a timely assessment.
  • With input from the patient, remote triage nurses follow the esteemed Schmitt and Thompson guidelines. Symptom-specific questions are asked to identify evidence-based criteria that leads to the most appropriate recommendation for care.
  • Care Desk’s fully customizable platform fosters loyalty and growth by only referring patients to appointments with their provider’s practice - either in person or virtually, in network ED’s or Express Care or the lucrative laboratory and radiology services.
  • Accurate, streamlined scheduling along with real-time updates of provider preferences not only prevent delays in care but also allow for same-day appointments.

Comparison of automation across types of patient database software

  EHR/PM S&M CRM Healthcare CRM
Documentation X X X
Orders X   X
Provider Clinical Decision Support X   X
Financial Management X    
Prescriptions X   X
Alerts and tasks X X X
Chart outcomes X   X
Meeting regulatory requirements X HIPAA only HIPAA only
Identifying opportunities   X  
Segmenting potential customers   X  
Communicating your messages based on persona   X X
Distribute content to patients via multiple channels   X X
Use analytics to learn which messages work best   X  
Guide potential customers through a journey of discovery and choice   X  
Manage channels and salesforce pipeline   X  
Identification of reason for contact   X X
Knowledge management during a conversation   X X
Non-clinical NLP safety check     X
Nurse triage and dispositions     X
Matching complicated scheduling requirements     X
Managing contact and issue queues   X X
Refilling prescriptions X   X
Allocating resources to address patient need quickly X   X
Coordinate multiple resources to address patient need X   X
Delivering care advice in whatever format patient needs     X
Providing health information in whatever format patient needs   X X
Conducting telemedicine visits     X
Communicate and coordinate with external service partners     X

Can’t Afford Another CRM


Can you afford to NOT have a Healthcare CRM?

The benefits of Care Desk have been demonstrated to be substantial, encompassing safety and litigation, revenue optimization, and lower costs:


  • Should you be taken to court, you need to have documentation showing proper steps were taken for safety and training, along with what happened during the patient encounter
  • A full 50% of telehealth court cases involve actions taken by non-clinical agents, such as schedulers.
  • Care Desk provides tools to enhance the patient safety, like Symptom Checker, Triage, and e911.
  • Care Desk scripting and guidelines walk users through your processes, so they are less likely to make a mistake
  • Care Desk documents every action taken on a telehealth encounter, so you have the data your organization needs to protect itself

Revenue Optimization:

  • Care Desk reduces scheduling errors and missed appointments with Intelligent Scheduling
  • The waitlist feature automatically fills in lost revenue from cancellations
  • Round robin features help fill schedules of new providers
  • Patient self-scheduling / re-scheduling allows patients to find appropriate times that match your scheduling rules and notify those in line that a new slot is available
  • Mass rescheduling allows you to respond to unanticipated emergencies (like a snowstorm) with minimal loss of revenue
  • Steer patients towards the right appointment types, including telemedicine

Lower Costs:

  • With a single interface that guides users through every call type, workflow, email, paging, scheduling, while auto-documenting all actions – this lead to:
  • Training is drastically cut with a one-page, guided patient interview
  • Mistakes, data entry errors, their research and correction are minimized
  • Call handle time is reduced by at least 30%, with all integrations implemented

And, most important, it leads to a greater level of care for every patient.

Visit to learn more.

About Keona Health Inc.

Keona develops software to improve communication in the healthcare industry. The flagship product, Care Desk, is a Healthcare CRM and Telehealth platform that provides best care to patients and superior tools for those who serve them.H

Posted By

Stephen Dean

Stephen first built his career in information technology, working as a developer for Hewlett-Packard and several start-ups. He received his MBA from Duke before co-founding Keona Health, where he manages all facets of finance, marketing, and operations.

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