It used to be that great customer service came solely from people – smiling associates eager to get the job done right. Those face-to-face and over-the-phone interactions still matter, of course, but increasingly, great service is also a reflection of great technology. Today’s most successful consumer-facing organizations – from retailers and banks to airlines and telecom providers – rely on advanced automated systems to ensure every customer receives fast, accurate, consistent service.

Most would agree, however, that the healthcare industry has some catching up to do on the technology front. Healthcare consumers are demanding the type of quick and convenient service they receive from other industries. But, largely due to the complexity of the healthcare industry, many payers and providers are still in the early stages of harnessing those digital capabilities. To be sure, healthcare IT departments have their work cut out for them, embarking on a transformation to make their organizations more responsive to customer inquiries, more transparent with their pricing, and generally more effective at caring for patients.

At the heart of it all is the IT infrastructure, the foundation on which a technologically-enabled business is built. The healthcare leaders of the coming years will have deployed next-generation infrastructure that allows them to serve consumers with unprecedented efficiency.

Here are four areas healthcare organizations should focus on to reach that future-ready state.

Moving toward the cloud

The cloud, with all its compelling advantages, is at the center of most digital transformation strategies. Healthcare organizations are no exception. Moving away from on-site data centers and locally hosted applications to a cloud environment (whether public, private, or hybrid) opens the door to a host of business improvements that also benefit customers: cost-efficiency, process automation, easy scalability, and increased productivity, to name a few.

For large organizations, moving to the cloud is a gradual, carefully planned transition, not completed by the flip of a switch. But organizations can start down that path with progressive steps such as virtualizing servers and desktops, as well as modernizing legacy applications to be cloud-ready.

Data integration

While the cloud offers the streamlined IT environment to support next-level customer service, data integration will be the key to truly knocking consumers’ socks off. Today, most patients’ full healthcare history is fragmented in incompatible formats across numerous organizations. A single provider rarely sees the complete picture. But with the advanced integration capabilities, health care organizations have a tremendous opportunity to merge data from electronic health records, “telehealth” applications, and even remotely monitored medical devices, with CRM platforms and improve their level of service. With the right infrastructure and tools to capture, integrate and analyze disparate forms of patient information and images, providers can make more informed clinical decisions and handle administrative functions more efficiently. Ultimately, a broader knowledge of individual patients will engender trust and help patients feel that their provider understands their needs and will act in their best interests.

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