Customer relationship management (CRM) is a critical part of any healthcare service provider’s operations. However, the stakes in healthcare are higher because the customers here are the patients. That dynamic means it’s not only customer satisfaction on the line, but also patient well-being. 

Adequate patient management is even more crucial for nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Operators must take responsibility for people who may lack full cognition or suffer from memory loss. 

Unfortunately, the long-term care industry has been slow to adopt CRM platforms, which can greatly improve the patient experience and senior care. These platforms allow healthcare providers to manage internal and external communications and consolidate patient information in one place, ensuring patient records are comprehensive and accessible.

The ongoing challenges in the broader healthcare sector – from staffing shortages to price transparency – means a growing number of organizations are using technology to remake their operations. Care facilities not willing to change therefore risk getting left behind, and their residents deserve better.

Why choose a CRM

I want you to visualize a long-term care facility, or think of the last one you stepped foot in. What do you see? Old desktop computers. Piles of old unorganized files and paperwork. Of course, not all facilities are like this, but it’s time for an overwhelming shift to a more efficient management system.

In the long-term care industry, antiquated scheduling systems that depend on phone calls and verbal communication still dominate. But these manual scheduling practices are both slow and prone to human error. Something as minor as a misplaced note to reschedule an off-site doctor’s appointment can have far-reaching consequences for customers. For instance, a resident could miss a chemotherapy appointment. 

Moreover, patient information and histories are often not stored in one centralized place. Nurses may not have access to a patient’s complete history, current medications, preferred physician, etc., and the patient may not be able to communicate this information themselves. 

Investing in a CRM system allows long-term care providers to streamline scheduling and locate every detail they have on their patients in an instant in one place, from current prescriptions to medical appointments. A CRM can also greatly simplify payments and billing, lightening the load on already overburdened care workers. Moreover, as nurses switch shifts, there’s less risk of a patient being left behind or overlooked. Everything will be logged and automated. 

How to migrate 

But how can long-term care facilities begin to switch to a CRM system? First, they need to consider how to migrate their current data. When migrating data to a CRM system, the approach depends on whether you’re overhauling an internal data system to implement a CRM or merely transferring from one CRM provider to a more modern platform.  

Either way, you’re going to need to migrate and integrate data into your new CRM platform, and this migration inevitably comes with certain risks. CRM migration is more complicated than simply transferring your data to new software. Rather, migration is the process of securely moving sensitive patient data, attachments and other important resources from one system to another. 

The biggest risk in migration is the potential for data to be lost or altered in transit. Since healthcare providers are handling protected patient information, there are added risks involving patient privacy and potential HIPAA violations. To ensure compliance and a smooth migration, your approach to prepare for migration should be three-fold. 

The first step is to create a complete and secure data backup. This should be stored as a copy, so you can always restore it if something goes wrong with the original file. Then it’s time to map your source data and ensure it is structured properly. Finally, before migrating the data, test it to ensure all is correct. 

If mapping and migrating all this data from one platform to another seems too laborious, you also have the option to start with a blank slate: instead of moving existing data into the new platform, you can simply start fresh. You can implement a new system in which patient data is added going forward, but old data is not integrated into it. Clearly this tactic has its limitations, but for some facilities it may be the best way forward. 

The AI edge 

With the current AI boom in healthcare, now is perhaps the best time for streamlining patient care by adopting CRM. That’s because AI can be integrated into CRMs to help providers automatically organize and analyze patient information. 

AI-enabled CRM platforms can take multiple inputs and data formats – including both structured and unstructured data – to create a more complete patient profile. The platforms can sort data, analyze electronic health records (EHR), and collect and collate information from multiple sources. 

By analyzing patient data, AI can predict future care needs and the required resources and personnel. It can also help to identify typical patient behavior and flag changes that may be indicative of an underlying issue. Moreover, AI can monitor patient health long-term and identify potential gaps in care. 

In general, the care industry has long dragged its feet in adopting new technologies and embracing automation. This is starting to change, especially as AI has begun to permeate the broader healthcare space in diagnostics, treatment and data analysis. 

Of course, long-term care providers will still need to perform a cost-benefit analysis on adopting this tech, but the benefits of a CRM platform – especially one paired with AI – have become undeniable. It’s time to provide adequate care and bring the sector up to speed. 

Stephen Dean is the co-founder of Keona Health, a health desk that makes omnichannel patient access fast and simple.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.