In most countries, the process of paying for health coverage is not just costly, but complicated, stressful, and time consuming. It also prohibits people from accessing care.
If exorbitant prescription drug prices and out of pocket expenses were not already enough, healthcare consumers must also navigate payment systems known for their obscurity and susceptibility to error. These systems not only overwhelm current users, but also discourages new ones from finding the coverage that is right for them.
The relationship between a healthcare consumer and their healthcare financing should not—and does not—have to be so fraught. As health services becoming increasingly digital, more opportunities open up for companies to stage data driven interventions that can modernize, and hopefully revitalize, our fragmented healthcare networks.
Such is the aim of fintech, or financial technology, that brings new and improved digital financial service models into the healthcare space. Fintech companies are leveraging powerful innovations blockchain, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to eliminate the inefficiencies and knowledge gaps endemic to most healthcare payment plans. With few exceptions, what unites them all is their ability to streamline the flow of information and money between patients and providers—and in doing so, save everyone involved precious time and effort.
Mobile based health savings accounts, low interest loans, and remittances used specifically for healthcare are examples of payment oriented fintech solutions, which increase the access and affordability of care for low to moderate income populations that might otherwise be difficult to reach. Meanwhile data oriented fintech solutions, which simplify the health payment process for all users, use technology to process healthcare data in greater quantities and at greater speeds.
Patient satisfaction is, after all, a nonnegotiable requirement for fintech success. The phrase “patient centric” appears frequently in descriptions for products targeting healthcare consumers and providers alike, making a direct appeal to organizations that want to do better by the people they serve. Simplee, a data driven platform that tailors health payment options to match patient preferences, even proclaims itself the “founder of the patient financial care movement,” proudly declaring “power to the patients.”
The heavy emphasis on patient engagement is no mere marketing strategy. Patient centered care, according to the GemOS website, is the “model of the future”—a future in which healthcare networks, like finance companies, compute large amounts of data to fulfill specific individual needs. In restoring a sense of agency, choice, and value to healthcare consumers, personalized payment plans help rebuild trust between them and their providers.
Looking beyond the United States to countries abroad, the relationship between poor healthcare financing and poor health outcomes becomes even more apparent. In Southeast Asia, rising healthcare costs have driven the household incomes of 65 million people below the poverty line, impoverishing millions more each year. As with any emergent healthcare solution, implementing strong fintech platforms will require extensive research, public private partnerships and good governance to reach the patients who need them most. Healthcare fintech is a frontier with plenty of room for improvement—which is why its trajectory is worth following.
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I am a scientist, businessman, and philanthropist. For nearly two decades, I was a professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health where I founded two academic research departments, the Division of Biochemical Pharmacology and the Division of Human Retrovirology. I am perhaps most well known for my work on cancer, HIV/AIDS, and genomics. My work now also includes efforts to improve access to high quality, affordable healthcare for people in low, middle, and high income countries alike. I am chair and president of ACCESS Health International, a nonprofit organization I founded that fosters innovative solutions to the greatest health challenges of our day. Each of my articles at Forbes.com will focus on a specific healthcare challenge and offer best practices and innovative solutions to overcome those challenges for the benefit of all.