Healthcare and Fintech: An Unlikely Match
By Moayad Ghannam
Business Innovation and Analytics Specialist
When looking at the surface, Financial Technology (Fintech) and healthcare appear to be two starkly different disciplines. For instance, Fintech aims to integrate technology into the financial lives of consumers. On the other hand, healthcare seeks to restore and maintain the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of individuals. In fact, they are so distinct that people often fail to make the undeniable association between the two; human-centricity.
Human-centricity, referred to as consumer-centricity in Fintech and patient-centricity in healthcare, is defined as a strategy and culture of keeping the customer's experience at the heart of business and strategic decisions. This emphasis defines the model through which healthcare and Fintech services are administered, and once abstracted, they become much alike.
That being said, the healthcare industry shares some more interesting similarities with the overall banking sector. For instance, both have experienced prolonged periods of stagnation in innovation. While treatment technologies have continued to evolve to unparalleled heights, the healthcare industry's logistical, administrative, and financial elements have remained largely deprived of innovation. This renders healthcare, like banking, an industry that is ripe for innovation. This is where the Fintech promise comes in.
While both sectors are deemed essential infrastructure, the ways in which they interact vary significantly. This is because the financial sector acts as the underlying infrastructure of the overall economy. The financial sector's role is to support other essential and non-essential sectors within an economy. Fintech aims to expand the boundaries and scope of such support to include all individuals and entities in society. Thus, the need for innovation in the financial elements of healthcare administration and the potential that Fintech has in supporting such innovation renders the two a necessary pairing.
In 2017, a report by the World Bank and the World Health Organisation found that around half the world lacks access to essential health services. It further elaborated that around 800 million people spend at least 10% of their household income on health expenses, and 100 million people are pushed into poverty as a result of health-related costs. COVID-19 has increased the existing pressure on the healthcare industry and exposed the cracks in its foundations. Such challenges are emphasized in poorer economies, where the healthcare capacity in the face of COVID-19 is much lower than in high-income economies.
So, where does Fintech come in? Fintech aims to increase equitable access to services and promises to make services more accessible and affordable to consumers everywhere. Such a goal is achievable through the utilization of the data generated through our evermore connected world. In utilizing this data, Fintech companies can gain intimate insights into the financial needs of consumers and customize products that specifically address those needs, the epitome of consumer-centricity.
Globally, the Insurtech industry is expected to grow annually at a rate of 41% between 2019 and 2023. Insurtech, a subset of Fintech, describes companies utilizing technology to disrupt the insurance sector. One way it is doing this is through Digital Microinsurance products, which is insurance using digital mechanisms to improve its outreach and delivery. Digital Microinsurance products provide a safety net for low-income customers, helping prevent people from slipping deeper into poverty due to health emergencies.
With innovations such as treatment cost transparency, patient financing, financial management of unforeseen medical expenses, reimbursement methods, and customized medical loans  , financial services can expand access to cutting-edge medical services regardless of socio-economic background.
Besides health-specific Fintech innovations, digital financial services (DFS) can dramatically reduce the opportunity costs and the costs of financial transactions for the world's most vulnerable. Coupled with providing a safe and reliable vessel for the storage of funds, it facilitates the capacity of individuals to save. As a result, DFS boosts resilience in the face of economic shocks and other crises, including illness.
In Jordan, the healthcare industry is experiencing a technological revolution that will streamline the healthcare processes experienced by patients, medical practitioners, and health-aligned institutions. The Electronic Health Record system, Hakeem, aims to digitalize the data and processes involved in the healthcare experience. This digitalization will set the foundation for ubiquitous integration with Fintech platforms, further easing the experience of patients. The success of the Hakeem initiative and its subsequent integration with Fintech providers hold great potential in improving financial inclusion and extending access to quality healthcare services for patients.
To conclude, the rise and development of financial technology have created a realm of opportunities for various other sectors. These opportunities are the result of integrating specific Fintech technologies into such sectors and applying the models and processes that distinguish the field. Healthcare, in particular, is a suitable industry for such integration. By streamlining the administrative and financial aspects of healthcare management, we can ensure that the efforts of healthcare professions are diverted to what really matters: the health and wellbeing of people.
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