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CRM and EMR: Close in name, different in purpose

These two acronyms share two of the same letters but are very different in their purpose and history. We share a perspective on how customer relationship management (CRM) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems combined can be invaluable at what they do best and result in the best of both worlds for providers and patients.

CRM and EMRCRM and EMR: A Different Starting Point

Despite the acronym similarity, each has a very different focus.

  • CRM, such as from, puts the “customer” and the company’s “relationship” with that customer front and center
  • EMR puts the technology first with the terms “electronic” and (database) “record”

EMR shows its age as an older classification, with the prefix “electronic”. Can you imagine putting “electronic” in front of any customer facing application or service today?!

Shared Purpose

While they may have different starting points both categories are focused on the customer albeit from different perspectives.

  • EMR applications are incredibly complex systems with a myriad of integrations to systems (labs, billing, prescription/ pharmacy etc.) and many have powerful algorithms to predict, detect and potentially prevent adverse events based on patient data. However the primary users are the healthcare providers and not the customer/ patient/ health plan member.
  • CRM systems, while they may not provide the complexity of what mature EMR systems provide, put the member at the center of the application.

CRM systems offer providers:

  • A way to interact directly with members
  • Automated alerts to remind the provider to contact their members based on new data, or the absence of data (e.g. Missing glucose reading)
  • An aggregated view of the members history in a more user friendly, and configurable, way than EMRs’ which are very visit centric

CRM systems offer members, when granted access through a patient community:

  • A way to interact directly with their care team
  • The ability to share additional information – medical vitals, exercise, food intake, etc. – that is relevant to their treatment plan
  • Access a wealth of knowledge that their providers have made available
  • Manage/ schedule appointments and view results of past visits


EMR + CRM: The Best Of Both Worlds?

We believe there is a place for both CRM and EMR applications. It is very similar to how most organizations have both a CRM and ERP application. They are good at different things. The latter is a system of record that is focused on efficiency and internal users. The former is focused on enabling a more engaged and intimate relationship with its customers, and assume all parties have equal access to information.

In the competitive healthcare environment you need both. For the approximately ~50% of providers that do not use an EMR, we suggest you start with a CRM solution first. You will likely see the business benefits, such as increased member loyalty, faster than implementing an EMR solution.

For providers that already have an EMR, we suggest planning a co-existent strategy where data from an EMR application is selectively and securely integrated with a CRM application where both providers and members receive all the benefits of a CRM application. There are lots of great 3rd party applications like Informatica and Cast Iron to do this.

Perficient is at the HIMMS conference in Orlando this week at Booth #2035. HIMSS is to the healthcare industry what Dreamforce is to the cloud industry. To learn how Perficient can help you implement Salesforce solutions call us at 877-276-2120 or email us at

For more information on Perficient’s expertise in healthcare technology including Connected Health, regulatory compliance, system interoperability, information exchange, and business intelligence and analytics, visit

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Andrew ODriscoll

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