Banks enter the healthcare landscape

Reflecting on widespread perceptions about banking, healthcare and other fields, Peggy Noonan, President Reagan’s former speechwriter, suggested that “we live in a time of collapsed and collapsing institutions.” How will we respond as a professional community, nation and ultimately, a global village?

When times are tough, new partners emerge and that’s the case with banks and healthcare groups that are integrating systems in unique and powerful ways. With synergistic goals, these key community anchors are strongly committed to quality-of-life issues and community opportunities.

Esther Dyson, one of Foreign Policy’s “2009 Top 100 Global Thinkers,” called medical banking a top lever for change in healthcare. Giving a nod to the idea, the global HIMSS organization and Medical Banking Project united in 2009 to form a new, non-profit, industry-neutral platform with global reach. From its formal introduction into the marketplace by MBProject in 2001, medical banking has entered the dialogue of numerous industry forums and survived repeated Senate mark-ups (see Section 1104 of H.R. 3590). Yet, while our cry has been heard, implementation is far from over.

Execution is critical. Commenting on health reform, The New Republic’s Jonathon Cohn said “there’s a difference between a bill implemented well and one implemented poorly.” Cohn went on to say that a bill needs to be highly visible to consumers in order to translate into successful political campaigns in November! While that’s not the best reason to pass a health reform bill, Cohn touches on a bipartisan political reality. Within such a context, can medical banking offer both a politically-compelling and pragmatic solution to improve healthcare? We say unabashedly, yes! But how?

First, it’s critical that a neutral platform convene key stakeholders – banks, providers, payers and employers – to design the healthcare financial network of the future. This issue can no longer take a back burner in the national dialogue to improve healthcare. HIMSS MBProject brings these groups together to translate industry dialogue into effective action, crafting a ‘lean, green, efficiency machine’ that converts some $35 billion in annual savings into charity and indigent care for communities across America.

Second, the healthcare financial network of the future isn’t all about moving money. Though that sounds odd, the data flowing through this channel can improve business intelligence for stakeholders who use bank services in everyday operations, including the 70 million online banking households that could access and share private, secure and confidential records located in “health-wealth” dashboards that incent healthy lifestyles.

Third, the network must be responsive to emerging requirements in privacy and security, fraud and abuse compliancy, transactional efficiency and other areas like social media applications, mobile banking, “mHealth,” telemedicine and programs that enable improved access in underserved communities at home and abroad.

Central to this pragmatic approach is the bank-health IT partnership. Ubiquitous in reach, banks and financial institutions offer new ways to ramp stakeholders onto digital business processes. Some of the world’s largest banks have joined HIMSS MBProject to gain strategic guidance as they spawn the next generation of treasury management services and new “point and click” tools that proactively engage consumers in the online setting.

This new alignment has also caught the attention of employers seeking to improve worker productivity, as well as the life sciences, payer and wellness communities. The “health-wealth” build-out is finding banks investing in non-traditional and innovative ways, like starting retirement planning centers at bank branches or integrating lifestyle programs.

As cross-industry solutions evolve, new functional requirements will drive new designs of our healthcare financial network, captured in the theme of the 8th National Medical Banking Institute (being held Feb. 28-March 2 in Atlanta). Following this event, HIMSS MBProject will operationalize our theme into work streams that facilitate systemic efficiency, innovation and investment from a new stakeholder – the financial community – to improve quality of life for communities around the world.

John Casillas is senior vice president of the HIMSS Medical Banking Project.

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