Gradual Engagement: What Banking Can Teach the Healthcare Industry

Gradual Engagement: What Banking Can Teach the Healthcare IndustryRemember the days when we had to actually GO to the bank to get cash? When we had to wait for our monthly statement to know if a certain check cleared or not? When we had to call a teller to ask to transfer money from savings to checking?  And it all had to be done between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm Monday – Friday (or those few morning hours on Saturday).

Think back to when banks decided to move to ATMs.  (I wonder how many kids today even know that stands for Automated Teller Machine?) Think of the overwhelming, logistical nightmare it must have looked like to banking executives in the 70s. Developing the technology. Implementing the telecommunications infrastructure. Setting up the machines. Setting up the ATM cards. The authentication process.  The possibility of fraud and other security issues.

I mean this is peoples’ bank accounts we’re talking about. Their money.

But banks knew the benefits outweighed the risks. The convenience it gave their customers. The savings they realized by having fewer tellers to train and employ to do the same work. The profit they eventually received from charging fees. Just as importantly, banks such as First National City Bank (now known as Citibank), as early adopters of ATMs , were able to use these convenient tools as a competitive differentiator driving the dramatic growth of their consumer banking for many years.

But banks didn’t stop with ATMs. They quickly moved to online banking.

In online banking’s humble beginnings, customers were only allowed to view account balances and transactions through the use of a terminal and a phone line. And look what we can do today from the comfort of our homes (or even our phones!) – pay bills, apply for loans, transfer money – essentially manage our financial health.  Online banking is so important that today financial institutions worry that if they don’t offer online banking, customers will go to competitors.

Healthcare is where the banking industry was a quarter century ago and health systems implementing patient portals have a lot to learn from their financial counterparts.

Success wasn’t realized overnight. Look at ATMs – they started small – those first few disconnected ATMs that sat in bank lobbies eventually grew to be a part of huge inter-bank financial networks.

Everyone has obstacles to overcome. Health systems have geographically-disperse hospitals or clinics, banks had branches. And banks weren’t without regulations to adhere to, either.  Yes, healthcare has HIPAA but banks had the Electronic Fund Transfer Act.

It’s ok to start small. It’s ok to start disconnected from other systems. Taking small steps eventually covers a lot of ground.

Let’s learn from the financial industry and celebrate the progress we’re making. Yes, we have a long way to go as an industry. But we don’t have to get there in one giant step. Just start, engage health consumers, and keep moving forward. I’m confident we’ll eventually get there!

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Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

2 thoughts on “Gradual Engagement: What Banking Can Teach the Healthcare Industry

  1. The task ahead is huge for health care, even bigger for care providers than it was for banks. There are 6,000 hospitals, about 2,500 of which are independent. There are more than a quarter of a million doctors, most of which are in small, unaffiliated practices, and many of whom are kicking and screaming into the digital age. Based on what we’re hearing from the MGMA and various medical societies, not $44,000 per doc can convince them that going electronic is a good idea. Kudos to you for being an optimistic voice.

  2. I’m not sure that the task is really bigger for healthcare than banking. According to the FDIC, there are almost 8,500 banks in America. From that side of things, the picture is very similar.

    As an industry, healthcare is straining. There are a number of places where the business fundamentals just aren’t there anymore. When you suggest that 250,000 individual/small practice physicians are not going to go out and select software and bring this stuff online, I agree. I see that a lot of those individuals and small practices just aren’t going to look the same 5 or 10 years from now. I anticipate that we’re going to see physicians forming larger groups, more physicians employed by systems, and more independents moving into concierge practice. I’m sure we’ll see other models come together as well.

    The point is that modernizing the healthcare industry doesn’t end with the items in the legislation. It’s going to work to change the way medicine happens. Otherwise, it’s not worth the effort.

    So, is $44k enough incentive? If someone has been on the fence about digitizing, then it should be sufficient to get them to move. Some doctors will purchase and adopt, some will merge into groups that are will take care of these issues for them, and some will ride out the status quo to retirement.

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