By News Editor

The health care industry has been notoriously slow compared with other industries in adopting digital technology to improve marketing effectiveness.

But HealthSouth, the nation's largest provider of inpatient rehabilitative healthcare services, has committed itself to a technology strategy covering its marketing activities intended to defy that notion.  Over the last year, it has  implemented a mobile version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM for 1,000 of its rehabilitation liaisons in the field--essentially its sales force-- in one of the largest such implementations anywhere. The liaisons use and update CRM on their Blackberry devices using MobileAccess from TenDigits.  Sales management and hospital operations users access CRM using PCs.  Extensive sales reporting has been developed using SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) and the reports are distributed via SharePoint.

"Full implementation was completed earlier this year," says Kelli Briggs, a HealthSouth senior business analyst. "It is a robust application and we can see that we are being more productive each day, versus before, when all the forms were being filled out by hand and over the phone."."

She adds, "The reduction in cycle time of the sales process is ensuring that potential patients and referral sources have knowledge of and access to HealthSouth's excellence in clinical outcomes."

The transition to automating its marketing activities has required a major shift at HealthSouth. While the company has long been a leader in applying the latest technology to its rehabilitative services, its marketing activities were another matter, says Rusty Yeager, deputy CIO.

"Our  liaisons--the people who stay in touch with doctors and healthcare professionals in hospitals to assess potential patients for HealthSouth hospitals--are constantly on the road," says Yeager.  "Until last year, they relied heavily on well-established conventional tools like telephones and paper-and-pencil to keep tabs of opportunities. There was a need for that information to be at the  liaisons' fingertips.

Two years ago, HealthSouth embarked on an effort to find the right combination of technological tools to develop "a centralized, 360-degree view of all physician and patient relationships."

The biggest challenge lay in developing that 360-degree view for the sales team, which consists of rehabilitation liaisons across the country, whose job is to develop patient referrals through  relationships with physicians, social workers, case workers or directly with the patients. In addition to improving the number of patients coming into its hospitals, the marketing team wanted to increase its field and corporate marketing activities in a consistent and timely manner, predict behaviors, and deliver relevant information to prospective patients.

After an extensive search, HealthSouth selected Microsoft Dynamics CRM, says Yeager, "because it met HealthSouth's four key business challenges. The challenges include automating the capture of patient referral source information and improving the timeliness of patient transfer between hospitals.  These needs had to be met while maintaining the integrity of newly designed sales and marketing processes we put together beforehand."

HealthSouth partnered with Tribridge to customize CRM to fit its unique sales and marketing processes for referral management.  "Even with the customizations, the application remained intuitive and easy to deploy to 1,000 users by the end of 2009. The referral information captured in CRM enhances the accuracy and efficiency for generation of daily hospital operating reports," says Yeager. 

The database is accessible remotely via mobile device or Netbook.  According to Briggs, "This capability is essential to HealthSouth's  liaisons' utilization across the country. Mobile access allows them to transmit key contact and referral information to hospitals, thus improving the timeliness of patient transfer. HealthSouth partnered with TenDigits for the Mobile technology implementation of CRM. MobileAccess from TenDigits Software securely extends an organization's unique Dynamics CRM configuration and capabilities to smartphones, anywhere, anytime, with or without a wireless signal."