Vertical Web-based eCRM applications seem to be the best choice for the healthcare industry to manage online customer relationships, a senior analyst with Aberdeen Group concluded in a new report. The report, "eHRM: The Special Case of Healthcare Customer Relationship Management," noted the evolution of a new class of vertical applications specifically designed to manage the unique, complex issues in the healthcare industry.
The healthcare industry is experiencing extreme growth of consumer and professional interest, as well as a demand for online health information, support and services, according to Harry Watkins, senior analyst for CRM solutions with Aberdeen Group. Aberdeen cited U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray as saying that e-healthcare revenues are expected to exceed $15 billion in 2005, and this will transform how healthcare companies, organizations and providers are doing business.
Electronic CRM rises to another level with the assistance of Web-assisted relationship and community building methods. In healthcare, it becomes a different approach, known as e-healthcare relationship management, or eHRM.
The health industry faces unique challenges, including the sensitivity of health information; a great deal of diverse stakeholders such as researchers and practitioners, as well as patients and their families; the multi-layered nature of relationships; and the customer's need for trust, support, empowerment and community, Watkins wrote.
"No where is the need for industry-specific domain knowledge in managing customer relationships more critical than in the healthcare industry," he said.
The Web's interactive nature is also a part of what makes healthcare different from other industries, making the focus on the needs and perspectives of patients, professionals and other health consumers even more important, according to Watkins. Apparently, e-healthcare companies are finding that Web initiatives are easier to adapt to their visitors' changing needs and enable them to build customer loyalty and create a one-to-one relationship.
At the core of this customer movement to the Web for healthcare purposes lie several trends. In particular, Watkins cited the aging of the U.S. population, the dissatisfaction with traditional sources of health information, the growth of managed care and the growing volume of healthcare-related online content.
Watkins cited statistics that illustrate the growth of the market for eHRM. The American Society of Health-System Pharmaceutical Cists said that three out of four Internet users use the Web to search for health information, and 48% of Internet users said that they have searched online for specific information about prescription medications. According to a study funded by the American Medical Association, the number of physicians communicating with patients by e-mail has tripled in less than a year, with 10% of physicians now sending or receiving e-mail from patients on a daily or weekly basis.
Aberdeen cited SoftWatch as meeting the need for a vertical healthcare platform. SoftWatch's SoftWatch Relationship Server 2.0, according to Watkins, can be deployed rapidly, is cost-effective, is scalable and effectively builds and sustains health-related relationships.