In Finance and In Health: Explore Disruption with TMITM

In Finance and In Health is a new series from TMITM exploring the ways in which finance and healthcare are changing our selves and our society. Say what? Here’s the deal:

Most of my career has involved innovation in global Access to Finance, but in 2009 when I left my position as Chief Investment Officer of Accion International, my goal was to bring my creativity to the challenge of financing what I call “Access to Life” sectors: health, affordable housing, education, clean water, renewable energy, nutritious and secure food.

In 2013, struggling to stay on top of developments in six or seven sectors on four continents, it was clear that I needed to focus. But on what? If your health is good today, but there’s no clean drinking water, you or your children could need health care (parasites, digestive ailments, etc) at any time. If we build a school, but your home has no source of lighting after dusk, how will your child study and advance in life? Every Access to Life sector is important and no one sector mattered more to me than any other – they are all necessary elements of sustainably improving socio-economic quality of life!

Fortunately (taking a very broad view of good fortune), I had been dealing with a variety of health and accident challenges — yes, I’m one of those people who was hit by that proverbial bus (ok, it was an SUV) and forced to re-assess life. In applying my best leadership and management skills to getting healthy, I found myself increasingly disturbed at the realization that nothing I was seeing in healthcare innovation would pass my all four of my impact investment filters.  There are plenty of medical ethics boards and ethical standards around, yet they are applied in ways that don’t resonate for me.

Right about this time, Richard Thaler released his new book “Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics”. He recounts an incident in which he attempts to explain prevailing economic theory on savings to a group of psychologists. “The psychologists remained stunned in disbelief” he wrote “wondering how their economics-department colleagues could have such wacky views of human behavior”.

“That’s it”, I thought “that’s exactly how I feel listening in on NIH sessions on Precision Medicine or listening to physicians in a PCORI session try to figure out how to get info on patient outcomes from anybody other than the actual patient. With my mouth still gaping in disbelief, I kept plowing deeper into due diligence until at last I realized I had found my focus. Not just health, but health and wellness, specifically women’s health and wellness.

At first, I was relieved and then panic set in again. Am I moving too far from my financial sector expertise? That’s when I started noticing the many parallels between health and finance. Both sectors are in the midst of unprecedented disruption and reinvention, catalyzed by technology and social change. “In finance and In health” is a new investigative line for The Money in the Middle, exploring the ways in which managing our money (do you know your FICO score?) and managing our health (do you have a personal EMR?) all come down to a single bottom line. My money, my body, my data, my health, my responsibility. Yours too!

I’ll let Bank of America start us off, in this interesting piece on how healthcare organizations are introducing financial wellness and retirement programs to meet the needs of a changing workforce. In finance and in health, knowing where you stand is important. Knowing how to change where you’re at to achieve sustainable happiness and well-being — that’s our challenge. Follow along in the coming weeks as I explore!

Lauren Burnhill ~ @LaurenOPV