Remember 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!