Los Angeles public health department customizes CRM software

The Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LADPH) is using off-the-shelf customer relationship management (CRM) software to automate a variety of tasks, ranging from ensuring food safety to tracking disease outbreaks and helping public health nurses manage their cases, according to an InformationWeek Healthcare article.

The Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform was originally developed for sales and marketing, but the company is also promoting it to healthcare providers. Using a toolkit that Microsoft provides, LADPH has customized the software for very specific purposes for which there are no commercial applications.

For example, LADPH had no reliable way to track and manage cases of tainted food sold in outdoor stands and carts. But it took only a few weeks for LADPH to customize the CRM application for this purpose, LADPH CIO Jim Green told InformationWeek.

LADPH also needed some specific programs for the 14 community health centers that it runs. Either those applications didn't exist, or dedicated software would have been too expensive for the department to buy, Green said.

For example, purchasing a pharmacy system just to meet state mandates for pill labeling and patient drug information would have been overkill. For the few drugs that public health clinicians at the centers prescribe, such as medications for tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases, a customized CRM application works just fine, according to Green.

LADPH also used the CRM toolkit to develop an application that automates the workflow of its case managers, including alerts about what to do next in particular cases. Previously, the case managers were using paper spread sheets.

CRM costs are high on a "per-seat" basis, Green said. But an approach like that of LADPH makes sense where development cost savings are substantial, where the number of users is few, or where staff are already using CRM for other purposes.

Microsoft says that healthcare providers can use Dynamics CRM to increase patient satisfaction, coordinate care delivery through referrals, manage chronically ill patients, recruit healthcare professionals, manage clinical trials, market to the community and extend existing IT applications. Microsoft also touts the ability of CRM apps to track financial and clinical data.

However, there's no indication that CRM applications can be interfaced with healthcare financial, practice management, or electronic health record systems. So perhaps the real advantage of using CRM in healthcare is the ability to customize it for unusual or limited purposes, as in the case of LADPH.

To learn more:
- read the InformationWeek Healthcare article
- see Microsoft's pitch for Dynamics CRM in healthcare

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