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.