Can Banks Offer the ‘Digital Key’ to Healthcare?

Recognition of medical banking, or the convergence of banking and health IT, is gaining ground. Yet, of the many ideas evolving from this unique and growing cross-industry area, none may have more impact than using banking identity and access management systems for healthcare. By using “digital keys” offered by banks, the patient could gain a solution for securely accessing his or her electronic health records and much more. I want to share four compelling reasons for why I think banks can offer digital keys for healthcare:

1.  Innovations in Banking and Health IT Are Ripe for Collaboration

Cost and convenience is driving new forms of efficiency in payment processing and this is driving banks further into the health IT arena. For example, medical banking innovations have helped one healthcare system move 4 million “explanation of benefits” (EOBs) from paper to digital processing, providing a conservative annual savings of $2 per form, or $8 million. Both providers and consumers have less paper to manage when following the digital approach.

2.  Banks Have Addressed Identity Theft; Healthcare Desperately Needs a Solution for Medical Identity Theft

In 2006, the World Privacy Forum declared medical identity theft as the fastest-growing form of identity theft. Move ahead to 2010 when, according to the Ponemon Institute , more than 1.4 million people were victimized by medical identity theft, and the average cost to resolve their cases totaled about $20,000. Over half reported having to pay for medical coverage they did not receive to restore their health coverage. In fact, nearly one third indicated their health premiums increased after they were victimized.

While a global dialogue around identity and access management is already in full swing, it has yet to effectively connect the notion of using banking systems for patient identity management. Many view banking and health IT as separate. But the intersection between the medical banking domain and innovation blurs the lines.

Policy is moving forward in this area. The Obama administration announced a new “cybersecurity” plan to protect national interests and establish a new digital identity program starting in August 2012. As commerce moves from paper money to digital transfers the importance increases for identity and access management.

With the growth of medical identity theft, evolved technologies now part of the identity ecosystem for financial identity theft could easily cross-pollinate into healthcare systems. We demand identity management in banking, a necessity of keeping our money safe. As these best practices evolve, linking that identity with health IT to access personal health records is an inevitable addition in payment systems.

3.  Banking Infrastructure Offers Ability to Better Process Medical Payments

Cash management combines identity and access management in banking and healthcare. This convergence impacts the finances of the healthcare enterprise, medical practice and individuals. Accessing this cash flow and the confidential information that moves with funds requires a growing portfolio of trusted identity protocols offered by banks.

To address this area, banks must understand the risks in dealing with this data, which is individually identifiable and highly confidential. HIMSS teamed with three groups to outline this evolving compliance area and created a report to help banks assess HIPAA/HITECH impacts on banking services for healthcare. The report explains why some banks offering medical banking services are impacted by healthcare-derived, health data protection laws.

4.  Banks Are Engaging Consumers with New Technologies; Healthcare Can, Too

Studies in online banking have attempted to show cost savings by moving banking customers from offline to online. Yet, the results indicate a different result: cost savings are neutral but online banking customers typically have larger and more account balances. These results demonstrate that banks have an economic driver for moving consumers from offline to online banking.

Banks have developed a multi-pronged approach that involves branches, ATMs, online, and mobile technologies. Using these assets, banks can target the “unbanked” just as healthcare targets the “underserved” (uninsured or underinsured). Language barriers and generational gaps in technology must also be taken into consideration. Will healthcare redevelop this entire spectrum of capabilities to move the consumer to online programs? It seems logical to simply link online banking and personal health records and use the entire program banks are investing into annually to move the consumer into a digital way of interacting with their healthcare providers. The key for unlocking strong consumer engagement involves more than technology.

Conclusion – Banks Can Answer the Challenge

Healthcare can benefit by adapting, rather than re-inventing, the technology wheel that is already developed by banks and financial institutions. Here’s how:

  • Banks add a new service category in online banking – “Click here to visit your personal health record.”
  • Consumers, using their online bank account, receive a lifelong digital key for authorizing access to financial and personal health records.
  • Caregivers, payers and patients rely on the digital key to access interoperable healthcare networks and accurately collate electronic records at point of request (online, card swipe, etc).
  • In the future, consumers could monetize their health records, sweeping earned funds into a savings account just like we earn interest in cash deposits today.

“Identity is the new money” as we move to digital platforms. Inherent within banking systems, which are reducing costs for healthcare providers and payers, is the use of sophisticated identity management programs. Banks may fast-forward their strategy by linking these systems, coupled with their existing multi-pronged programs, to change consumer behavior and provide compelling reasons for individuals to embrace online healthcare programs. Getting two for the price of one can be a viable policy and technology decision as healthcare continues to go digital.

John Casillas is the senior vice president of business-centered systems at HIMSS and a global health IT Fellow at World Bank.

3 replies »

  1. The value of an idea is what it enables you to do. I am glad Apple didn’t stop trying to perfect the tablet style computer after the lack of success with the Newton. Utilizing the banking infrastructure in health care has a high innovation potential to accelerate the migration of the 55-75% of administrative work that is currently accomplished with human curated paper processes. We are talking about 8-15% of a $2.6T-ish industry.

  2. What John is advocating isn’t old style “health record banking”. It’s real collaboration and leveraging of of two systems that touch every transaction in healthcare. The banking and financial systems have spent billions developing and protecting on line identities and it only makes sense that all that innovation not go to waste or be duplicated by an already strapped healthcare system. We need to get stakeholders to he table to start working on this now and not dismiss it as “old news”.

  3. This is old news. People have been advocating for health record banking for at least the past 10 years. Good luck!