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Medical Banking Offers Vision In Uncertain Financial Markets

By John Casillas, Founding Director, Medical Banking Project

In early October, sixty market leaders that are invested in the medical banking space met at a Leadership Forum in Nashville organized by the Medical Banking Project. Talk of the financial crisis quickly made its way into the dialogue with perhaps a unique wrinkle; namely, how will it impact Medical Banking?

Its important that leaders dialogue this issue to arrive at an understanding of market direction. The Leadership Forum provides the opportunity for members of MBProject to come together and discuss the current build-out of medical banking programs, isolating best practices and areas that require cooperation to move things along, like standards. Prior to beginning the session, a survey was handed out to capture opinions on the impact of the financial crisis on plans to implement medical banking programs.

Almost 80% of the delegates said that the financial crisis will not affect investment in medical banking programs over the next 12-18 months. The dollars earmarked for this activity have been budgeted and will more likely than not be placed into the segment. At that point, attendees breathed a collectively sigh of relief. We were all on the same page. Its still “game on” for medical banking.

I prepared a talk the night prior to challenge the leadership to stay focused. Taking a queue from Jack Welsh, former CEO of General Electric, I challenged leaders to not only create and articulate a vision, but to passionately own it, and to relentlessly drive it to completion. After the dust settles in the markets we still need to fix our healthcare system and in the basket of tools within our grasp to do that, medical banking offers a viable strategy to improve healthcare.

The remarks were received well. After an insightful review of the criticality of moving towards a real time system, comparing costs to other nations, by Dr. Harry Jacobsen, Co-Chancellor of Vanderbilt University and overseer of Vanderbilt Medical Center’s $2.5 billion budget, two panels followed discuss the current state of real time platforms and business intelligence in healthcare. This was followed by a talk by McCain advisor Dr. Steve Parente regarding his soon to be published paper entitled: The Next Step For Convergence of Healthcare and Financial Systems: The Potential of Medical Banking

On day 2 of the Forum, the leadership broke up into work teams and methodically plodded out, through discrete action items, what the agenda will be for the medical banking industry in 2009. 

Amidst a very serious crisis affecting financial markets, it should be clear that investment banking, and the bank on main street, are two very different structures. The paranoia has seeped through investment banking to affect main street banks, which are perfectly functional, as well as other industry segments. But the financial stability plan is largely a plan for investment banks, not commercial bankers. A new public relations program organized by the American Bankers Association is trying to get that point across to the American public.

Along these lines, I was asked to draft a column for the September issue of HFM to clearly outline the meltdown in financial markets and its impact on medical banking. In it I argue that although there a systems within healthcare and banking that are broken, there is still regularity and trust in both. We don’t tear down a house after a tornado has passed through if only the roof needs fixing. We still trust the foundation; we live in the house after its fixed. The two industries aren’t 100% broken and some leaders argue they need each other now more than ever before to pull through the crisis (see Martys blog).

In healthcare most of us trust that if something goes wrong we can get to the emergency room and receive care when we need it (although paying for it is another story). In banking, we routinely trust our funds transfer systems, ATM and branch networks, online banking and other areas. They operate 24 by 7 and will do so for a long, long time. 

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Banking is a core requirement in our economy and the areas that are under attack today, although affecting the broader economy, didn’t start and won’t end by casting blame on commercial banks.

Leaders must drive medical banking to completion. In this we will realize the promise of EDI in healthcare. Another way of saying the same thing is we need medical banking to “convert digital savings into charitable resources”, our mission at MBProject, and those savings are needed in communities across America and around the globe. The potential for creative innovation using medical banking is very real. It can improve the quality of lives everywhere.

This has been a premise in medical banking since its inception and its more true today than when it was first conceived by the Medical Banking Project in 2001. Today, more voices are pointing towards the potential of medical banking to hasten needed and long lasting innovations in healthcare. 

When the dust settles in banking, the worrisome troubles in healthcare will once again take center stage and as leaders, we must drive the medical banking programs we have articulated to completion. By doing so, we will show true leadership, be responsive to product innovations that can be profitable and productive for all the stakeholders and address critical issues that must be fixed in our healthcare system.

October 7, 2008 in Medical Banking Institute | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Can Bankers Save Doctors? (Can Doctors Save Bankers?) Part I and Part II

Martin Jensen, of the Healthcare IT Transition Group, www.HITtransition.com, delves into medical banking here and here.

October 6, 2008 in Medical Banking Blogging | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack