The Sorry State of Medical Technology: A Comparative Analysis Between the Finance and Health Sectors

Both the healthcare and finance sectors are increasingly facing consumer demand for new easy-to-use technology. So why is the finance industry so far ahead?

As the healthcare and finance sectors provide similarly important services in a highly regulated environment, physicians and financial advisers play similar roles in guiding clients through numerous decisions so that disease and debt may be avoided.

However, where the two sectors differ is with their use of technology. IT systems have revolutionized financial services allowing the banking industry to save billions of dollars while offering consumers numerous conveniences, such as the ability to pay bills and make purchases online and via mobile devices.

Many in the healthcare sector are advocating for more robust IT solutions. As the Affordable Care Act continues to transform the industry by rewarding providers for positive outcomes, effective self-service tools and services are greatly needed.

What The ONC’s Interoperability Roadmap Can Learn from the Banking Industry

Recently the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released its interoperability roadmap with the goal of national interoperability for core data by the end of 2017. While it’s a definite step in the right direction, throughout the course of this initiative, stakeholders would do well to take a cue (or two) from the banking industry.

While some may argue banking is not as complicated as healthcare, the clearing and settlement of stocks, bonds, and commodities are among the most complex, high-volume, secure inter-organizational processes performed in any industry. The banking industry has developed a common set of transactions that go through a central banking facility and are then transferred to others. While individual banks aren’t told what software they have to use, they are required to follow a certain set of IT rules.

As the ONC moves toward similar developments in healthcare, it needs to build a standard set of transactions. This will allow a ‘central system’ to move critical data around to all providers, who would be operating in the same format.

Ultimately, the financial sector has been securely exchanging complex, real-time transactions for decades, and the lessons learned by those in the industry would benefit healthcare.

IT Lessons to be Learned from the Banking Industry

Before we take a look at some specific software offerings in each sector, let’s first look at some things medical technology vendors can learn from the banking industry.

1. Small Improvements Can Lead to Big Satisfaction

Banks discovered a long time ago that, typically, the biggest usability issues are the easiest and quickest to fix, and can offer the greatest return on investment.

Healthcare IT vendors would see measurable increases in client satisfaction if they focused on making small improvements on a regular basis.

2. Innovation Requires Thoughtful Process Design

The modern pace of change is simply too quick for a five-year, or even three-year, development cycle. The finance sector has done well to offer banks and consumers robust IT solutions when they became in demand — not a year or two down the road.

Healthcare software developers must design their process to make quick, incremental improvements, while including end users in their testing.

3. Think People — Not Devices

When mobile banking became all the rage, a plethora of products flooded the market. The ones that succeeded focused on human behavior and needs more than fancy bells and whistles.

As wearables become prominent in healthcare, vendors should remember to think about human motivations as well as robust technology.

4. Consumers Expect Risk Management and Security Innovations

Both banking and healthcare deal with highly sensitive consumer information. Today’s consumers are beginning to expect the same level of security in their healthcare experiences as they do their banking experiences.

Consider ATMs — they first arrived on the scene in the 1970s. These are to banking what EMRs are to healthcare. While more consumers are comfortable banking online, that same trust and satisfaction is not seen with EMRs. In fact, a 2012 survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that 85% of Americans have anxiety over EMRs. Half of respondents worried their health data would be lost, damaged or corrupted.

These concerns are not unfounded, as the top six data breaches in 2011 all involved healthcare organizations. More consumers are demanding electronic access to their healthcare data, but this demand can only be met when security issues have been met.

Practice Management Software vs. Banking CRM

In healthcare, one of the most common IT solutions used by providers is medical billing software. These systems run the business side of healthcare and do everything from schedule and bill patients to generate monthly reports. Picking a robust practice management solution is crucial for small- and medium-sized practices trying to stay afloat.

Though different vendors offer different packages and features, many physicians have the same complaints about their practice management solutions.

  • Lack of integration between varying systems
  • Usability issues - It’s hard to please your end users when no end user was asked to be part of the testing phase. Far too many PM solutions were designed only to pass an audit — never with doctors in mind
  • A general lack of support once the software is purchased
  • Inefficient workflows and templates

When we look at the banking side and consider some of the top CRM solutions on the market, we see software that has taken into account an end user’s need to manage customer relations and automate entire processes. Clearly the IT vendors had end users in mind during their designing and testing phases because they offer:

  • Highly scalable and customizable software
  • Back-end analytics, which offers customer insights
  • Streamlined workflows
  • Ease of usability
  • Simple integrations with software used on a day-to-day basis
  • Both remote and mobile access
  • Multichannel support (phone, online, instant chat) give end users options for how they want to get help.
  • Comprehensive data management in real-time

This is just one comparison. If we were to create other head-to-head battles between EHRs and core banking software, say, we’d most likely find similar results.

Medical technology is still in its infancy, which means there’s still time to learn from other industries. Health IT vendors should take a lesson from the finance sector and create technology that helps provider’s better patient outcomes while it decreases the risk of security breaches.

Aiden Spencer is a health IT researcher and writer at CureMD who focuses on various engaging and informative topics related to the health IT industry. He loves to research and write about topics such as Affordable Care Act, electronic health records, Medical Practice management and patient health data. You can get in touch with him on Twitter: @AidenSpencer15