A successful practice is all about delivering quality treatment, and great provider-patient relationships are essential.

But when it comes to mental healthcare in particular, client relationships are almost always long-term, making patient retention a big concern for many mental health specialists.

With such a good portion of practitioner efforts devoted to client relationships, high-caliber treatment, and great health outcomes, day-to-day practice management can fall by the wayside. With extra concerns about taking on new patients, handling scheduling and logistics, and more, both large and small providers have a lot on their plates.

So can Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools help the busy practitioner with patient management?

Customer Relationship Management: A Definition

Customer relationship management, or CRM, is concerned with gaining and retaining clients. Though it first emerged in the business sector, it soon found a home in healthcare as well, especially as more practices become privatized.

In research, CRM is defined in different ways, mostly because this concept is rather broad and, as a result, can be molded to the particular needs of a business.

Client Retention

For instance, Parvatiyar and Sheth focus on CRM’s ability to retain customers:[1]

Customer Relationship Management is a comprehensive strategy and process of acquiring, retaining, and partnering with selective customers to create superior value for the company and the customer.

This definition stresses the notion that CRM is an integral part of getting new customers and retaining them as a means to create loyalty among your customer base. It involves integrating:

  • Sales
  • Customer service
  • Marketing, and
  • Other key stakeholder functions to boost efficiency and effectiveness,

Here, the end goal is great customer value.

Customer Service

Others have defined CRM as a business strategy meant to help owners anticipate the needs of the customer, and address them directly.[2]

Information Management

Another aspect of CRM is its role in managing information, which has led some researchers to offer a different definition which stresses this aspect as one of the most important parts of the process. Kotler and Keller (2011) say:[3]

CRM is the process of carefully managing detailed information about individual customers and all customer touchpoints such as anything and any occasion that customer approaches the brand or product to maximize loyalty.

In this context, CRM is a tool businesses can use to gather information on their customers, and then use said information to increase loyalty among their customer base through marketing efforts, such as delivery special offers catered to them, or wishing them a happy birthday.

Customer Relationship Management in Mental Health

In healthcare settings, CRM can sometimes be referred to as “patient relationship management”. As in business settings, healthcare CRM is designed to help professionals build better connections with patients by offering acquisition solutions data that helps retention.

Of course, a CRM tool doesn’t necessarily mean a piece of software. At its most basic form, it can refer to a simple practice client list, and associated files such as mental health treatment plans. Here, more specifically, CRM will refer to the methods used to leverage these lists.

Why It Matters in Healthcare

CRM, either as a strategy or as software, is integral to any mental health practice, as it can help professionals deal with heavy competition for referrals and build health engagement. With CRM software, many relationship management processes can be streamlined, for example:

  • Sending session reminders
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Re-engaging no-shows or those who have stopped coming to therapy, and
  • Checking up on a patient’s status for more general client management.

CRM solutions can offer all the information a mental health specialist needs in one single interface. Because some processes can also be automated, they can save professionals plenty of time and effort.

Who Uses It?

But mental health is a very broad domain and can cover a lot of facets. As such, it’s usually best for professionals to choose a CRM system based on their particular practice needs.

In this sense, there could be:

  • CRM for a therapist or telehealth practitioner, which may come with noting features or templates on various mental health disorders to ease gaining patient information;
  • CRM for psychologists, which may have different requirements, such as the ability to prescribe medications through the platform;
  • CRM for coaches, such as life coaches, who may require simpler software, or a solution focused on streamlining coach-client communications.

These differences may seem small but important to nurturing better patient relationships and improving retention.

If you’re looking a program or app specifically to help with caseload management, then it may be best to look into a program that’s designed for your particular discipline – e.g. .

The Benefits of CRM

Whether its CRM for therapy, online coaching, or another type of mental health provider, there is a multitude of benefits that these programs can bring to the table.

In this table, we’ve summarized the main advantages.

CRM Benefit

Example

Personalization of Care

There’s no panacea in mental health, and it’s incredibly important to structure treatments based on both patient issues, and what they are comfortable with.

  • CRMs provide an easy way to collect, store, and access important patient data.
  • When they are handling a large number of clients, CRMs help practitioners avoid admin mistakes, such as missed details and those caused by recall bias.

Better “Social” Connections

Small social gestures can greatly strengthen a client relationship, consolidating relationships and enhancing patient satisfaction.

  • CRM software programs can streamline communication with reminders and notifications, even updating therapists on birthdays or key events where a card or note might go a long way.
  • Without CRMs, such efforts have to be done manually, which is ineffective and much more time-consuming.

Staying on Schedule

  • CRM can also send appointment reminders to patients, reducing no-shows, or giving them a chance to reschedule.
  • Crucial documents such as therapy intake forms and contact information can be made available online, to be filled out at home
  • More timely practice management can make a big difference in larger practices.

Engaging with Older Clients

Clients may successfully finish therapy and stop attending, or life circumstances may force them to quit. Either way, CRM can help re-engage disconnected patients, so they are not necessarily lost forever.

  • Some CRMs allow you to organize patient files by custom criteria such as former clients. This makes it easier to schedule emails that check-in or reconnect, re-engaging patients once more.
  • On a human level, most former patients might be grateful for the thought, improving your brand reputation and chances of referrals.

Less Time Spent on Administrative Tasks

  • With an estimated 74% of patients needing to repeat the same information several times to healthcare representatives, CRMs help by making important patient information more accessible to all relevant parties.[4]
  • Simultaneously, they can help to protect patient privacy by excluding those without access permission.
  • Many client management software programs don’t stop here, either, and can also be tailored using add-ons for different specialties, such as ABA software for therapists or e-mail marketing for solopreneurs.

Choosing a CRM: What Does It Entail?

No federal law dictates that CRM software have any special requirements.

If you’re shopping for the right system, however, it’s best practice to remember that any program or app you choose should adhere to the same federal and state regulations applicable to the provider.

For instance, if a CRM provider must send electronic billing information to the insurance company, then it’s necessary for the CRM software to meet the standards imposed by HIPAA:[5][6]

  • Secure messaging
  • Data encryption
  • Logs on what data was accessed, when and by whom, and
  • An authorization process that makes sure the data cannot be accessed by anyone.

CRM features are often integrated within a larger EHR or EMR software, which can include additional features such as billing, reporting features, or even personnel management.

What Do I Need?

As we’ve seen, it’s important to first consider what you need from a CRM or similar software, and choose the one that can provide the best services.

Some things to consider can include:

  • The type of data that needs to be tracked and managed
  • The number of people who will use it – some may be designed for small practices, for instance, and practical for a team of 20+ employees
  • Whether you’ve got any other programs in place, and whether the two are compatible
  • Whether the program requires any training
  • Whether it offers user support
  • Its mobile-compatibility
  • Whether it is HIPAA-compliant[5]
  • The security measures it offers
  • Whether it is customizable, and
  • Whether it meets your practice requirements.

What Works for You?

The right software will add value to any healthcare provider, especially practice management programs with subsector-specific features.

Nonetheless, choosing the ideal solution for your practice will all come down to your unique requirements.

It’s essential to bear in mind that many of these programs will require training or a learning curve, not to mention additional features are often more expensive. At the end of the day, it’s up to you as a teletherapist, psychiatrist, counselor, or coach to weigh up the costs and benefits for your organization.

Final Thoughts

From a business standpoint, CRMs are incredibly valuable because they can greatly help with various marketing needs a company may have. The golden rule of marketing these days is that the more you personalize your campaigns, the more results you have.

CRMs can bring some of the magic to the world of healthcare as well. This can be especially beneficial to mental health practices, where patient-provider relationships have a big say in whether they will continue their treatment.

References

  1. ^ Parvatiyar, A., & Sheth, J. N. (2001). Customer relationship management: Emerging practice, process, and discipline. Journal of Economic & Social Research, 3(2).
  2. ^ Payne, A., & Frow, P. (2005). A strategic framework for customer relationship management. Journal of Marketing, 69(4), 167.
  3. ^ Kotler, P. (2007). Marketing Management. NJ: Prentice Hall.
  4. ^ Future Health Index. (2016). The Capacity to Care. Retrieved from https://www.ehealthnews.eu/images/stories/pdf/future_health_index_report_2016.pdf
  5. ^ United States. (2004). The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration.
  6. ^ HIPAA Journal. (2019). The Most Common HIPAA Violations You Should Be Aware Of. Retrieved from https://www.hipaajournal.com/common-hipaa-violations/

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