Banking Saves Health Care

Leveraging data transaction expertise can create a better future for a troubled industry

Data is increasingly the currency in which health care trades. Everyone in health care knows we sit on mountains of incredibly valuable data, including patient records, physician notes, health insurance claims and pharmaceutical studies. The ability to analyze and gain insights from this data will enable us to make incredible strides to improve the health of individuals and entire populations. What's stopping us? Health care lacks a comprehensive strategy and universal platform for data transaction. No health care stakeholder today can easily and cost effectively share data with all of the other stakeholders. And yet, data transaction isn't rocket science.

The problem that confronts health care represents a lucrative business opportunity for the industry that does data transaction best: banking.

The cost of everything

There's currently no way to share our health care data universally, because as the value of health care data increases, all sorts of stakeholders introduce a multitude of proprietary interfaces that are designed to protect value by protecting the data itself. We didn't "charge" for information -- we just made it nearly impossible to get at. But everything has a cost, whether it's transparent or hidden. So health care pays for consulting services. We pay for more computer systems. We pay for additional staff to manage the systems. We pay in reduced efficiency and duplication of effort. Most important, we all pay in lost opportunities to help patients live better, longer lives.

So who knows how to value data transactions -- and thereby provide a common platform for the valuation of health care data itself? Banking.

The credit card's transactional heart

Banks have built wildly successful credit card operations by becoming the nexus of value between product or service and payment. They provide a powerful platform for exchange and offer a fee schedule that stakeholders agree (despite some occasional grumbling) is common and acceptable. The credit card became essential when it became medium of exchange everybody used (with a small transaction fee to vendors). It became a phenomenal moneymaker when banks used the card's "essential" quality to add fees - like card fees, late fees and interest charges.

Banks could follow the same scenario with health care: provide the universal data transaction platform for individual patient care for a small, cost-effective fee. After adoption is ensured, they could develop a more lucrative fee schedule for health care data "reuse" -- such as for clinical pharmaceutical studies -- and charge accordingly. Between the size of the health care industry and the rapidly growing need for multi-purpose data, the revenue could be in the billions.

Here's just one example of how this might work. An electronic medical records company has an interface with physicians; an insurance company has an interface with subscribers; a hospital system has an interface for the transfer of administrative information between sites. Banks establish the cost of each transaction to the respective parties, identify where cost can be removed through efficiency and scalability and provide the transaction for, say, one percent of savings. Costs are reduced, efficiency increased, banks create the framework for additional profit and health care professionals acquire the data they want - painlessly. Everyone wins.

Expertise worth paying for

It's clear that we in health care can't do anything like this on our own. Continuing to pursue our tactical focus on data standardization and software interoperability is pointless. In the era of Big Data, we need a comprehensive data transaction strategy that enables health care to realize the full potential of the information we keep adding to by the petabyte every day. The banking industry could provide that strategy -- and the means to implement it. By supporting banks in making a profit in return for their expertise, we could accelerate a transformation that can benefit everyone. Health care sometimes has difficulty viewing itself as a business. But however health care is defined, we could change our fortunes dramatically if we turned to the banking business and leveraged their expertise.