Seven hundred million people worldwide have obtained access to financial services for the first time over the past three years, according to a Gates Foundation funded institute. The big increase is due largely to the banking industry figuring out how to leverage low cost mobile phones and digital payments to improve accessibility of the previously “unbanked.” I’d like to see healthcare do something similar.
The USA Today points out some of the benefits consumers reap when they gain access:
“Financial inclusion, such as the ability to save money, access credit and keep money secure, is considered critical for reducing poverty and increasing economic growth. World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim called access to financial services ‘a bridge out of poverty.’
Visa is working with small merchants in developing countries to equip them with point-of-sale terminals that operate over mobile phones so they can process digital financial transactions, an endeavor that has good social impact but also makes business sense for Visa…”
Financial services was (and remains) way ahead of healthcare in applying technology and digital solutions to democratize the marketplace. Online customer portals at Vanguard and Fidelity are way ahead of what consumers can get from their hospitals and health systems.
I hope healthcare won’t take as long to take advantage of newer opportunities such as the spread of cellphones, the Internet, and the financial services industry itself. In the developing world the formerly “unbanked” and currently “untreated” could leverage technology for clinical decision support, remote monitoring, electronic prescribing and adherence, not to mention population health reporting and management.