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What’s Now In Payments Is What’s Next In Health Tech

For payments players, the promise of the mobile device isn’t what’s new, and so these things look less like science fiction and more like natural extensions – which come with a lot of the same challenges as the original versions. As the world goes mobile, is it time for more people to start thinking like payments people?

When most people think “futurists,” financial services and payments professionals aren’t the go-to mental images. In some sense, that’s actually somewhat surprising, given that America’s pre-eminent futurist, Elon Musk, was first famous for founding a payments platform – PayPal.

“If anyone thinks they’d rather be in a different part of history, they’re probably not a very good student of history,” Musk famously observed. “Life sucked in the old days. People knew very little, and you were likely to die at a young age of some horrible disease. You’d probably have no teeth by now.”

Musk’s view of the past may be especially dim. Also – insofar as developing commercial space travel is not the normal second act for highly successful payments entrepreneurs – Musk’s futurism is probably fairly judged as a bit more aggressive than the norm.

However, if you were at a dinner party and mentioned that you look forward to the day that voting in a presidential is something that can be done from your phone, it would sound strange to most people. If during Easter you bemoan the fact that your car doesn’t buy its own gas, your relatives will assume you don’t understand how cars work. And complaining at the pharmacy that prescriptions should be digitally transmitted will only make the other people in line angrier that you have lost your paper prescription  – as now you are both holding up the line and talking nonsense.

Mention any of these things at Innovation Projection 2015 next week, and no one will think them odd. Though there will likely be a variety of opinions on parade about any of those ideas’ feasibility, but it won’t sound like science fiction.

Because though a car that customizes to a driver’s needs based on commands from a smartphone sounds a bit like “The Jetsons” to the general audience, in a payments’ centric crowd, a more typical response is “Oh, sure, is it NFC or BLE?”

However, as these ideas are introduced to the wider world through commerce, integration with other technology or different applications of similar concepts – those technologies are expanding their use scale past how people pay and into how people structure their lives. For payments professionals, that change doesn’t look so much like what’s new, so much as it looks like what’s next.

And that next is coming, with increasing speed, to health care. Between the requirements of the Affordable Care Act around electronic health records, local legislation requiring electronic prescriptions or the rapid proliferation of mobile fitness tracking technology – health care is growing up, going mobile and going digital as fast as the servers can be built.

Which is likely why Apple’s HealthKit was so prominently on display during the Apple “Spring Forward” event earlier this week, though what has attracted the most interest, and controversy, since the big day has actually been the ResearchKit.

On its own, the ResearchKit is not inherently interesting to payments players – though the fact that it allows developers to combine the iPhone and HealthKit apps into a diagnostic and research tool is certainly neat.

The open source platform was designed so that medical researchers can create iPhone apps to recruit participants and actually tap into the phone’s capabilities to monitor health and do tele-studies. Along with the launch of the developer platform set for next month, Apple also released five disease-specific apps earlier this week – focused on Parkinson’s and asthma broadly.

However while the intentions of the app were universally lauded, it also drew a lot of controversy and concern that should have might have sounded familiar.

During the presentation, Apple prominently displayed “Apple Will Not See Your Data,” behind Operations VP Jeff Williams as he described the ResearchKit. “Participation Is Totally Voluntary,” was another phrase that Apple chose to highlight with big screen placement.

The first question that emerged was about minors, who often have smartphones of their own – or access to their parents’ smartphones. Legally, a minor needs adult consent to participate in medical research, but various reports indicate that age authentication is easy to bypass in the initial offering of research apps.

If that concern sounds somewhat familiar, it should — especially to Apple, who paid $32.5 million in fines to the FTC in July of 2014 for allowing underage consumers to buy through the app store without parental consent. Apple wasn’t alone in being dinged there; Google paid out $19 million for the same offense, and Amazon was also cited by the FTC but declined a settlement offer.

From that issue another familiar concern emerged – who owns a user’s data?

“There seems to be nothing preventing researchers from bringing in commercial companies or selling data, with user approval, to commercial bodies,” notes Nir Eyal, a medical ethicist at Harvard. (Dr. Eyal is a different person than the Nir Eyal who authored “Hooked” and will be moderating The Innovation Project 2015 panel “From Acquisition to Engagement.”) “That’s not a problem in its own right, but especially given that the system is based on millions of altruistic volunteers, it would only be appropriate if funding bodies and [review boards] made sure that studies that use this system address major sources of human disease burden — and that products that come out of it will be accessible widely around the world.”

Moreover, as ResearchKit is open-source, it would theoretically be possible that Merck, Pfizer or any other of companies with a commercial interest in the health information of iPhone users could build and submit an Apple App store. While it is possible that Apple will block this sort of use, so far Cupertino has not responded to questions about the issue.

The examples of opportunities to use the Apple Platform to make health care data more secure abound. In 2014, Apple opened up the Touch ID fingerprint reader to third-party developers, and earlier this week while controversy swirled around ResearchKit, Drchrono —  which makes an electronic health record optimized for use on an iPad — released an app that allows doctors to access their patient record the same way they access Apple Pay: with a fingerprint scan.

“The amazing thing about Touch ID is that people sometimes forget password and PIN codes,” Drchrono COO and cofounder Daniel Kivatinos wrote on the company’s blog. “This changes the game even more … touch technology in health care.”

In February, Imprivata released Confirm ID, which combines fingerprint identification in conjunction with one-time-password tokens to create a two-factor authentication system that allows medical professionals to create an e-signature for digital prescriptions.

“Paper-based prescriptions case clinical workflow inefficiencies and decreasing patient satisfaction,” noted CEO Omar Hussain. “Our goal is to offer a comprehensive, integrated product that simplifies the adoption of regulatory requirements for EPCS [Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances] and enables fast, secure e-prescribing of controlled substances.”

The year kicked off with the nation’s  second largest health insurer, Anthem Inc., being breached, allegedly by a Chinese cybercrime ring known as “Deep Panda,” leaving tens of millions exposed. At the time PYMNTS wrote about why payments people need to be worried about the data breach – even though no customer card data was exposed. What was, was enough consumer data to create a new identity, which is, of course, even more scary.

As the week’s controversies have emerged about ResearchKit, it seems also to be the case that the changing technological world is becoming increasingly specialized in sensitive data transfers; it’s also time for the world to start thinking more like payments players. That means going forward, the name of the game is decisions about the data – who can access it, how to move it, where to store it and how to keep it secure when it is both at rest and in flight. The answers to the first three questions are a work in progress – but payments already has the answer to the last. The data is really safe when its keepers recognize that someone is probably always going to be after it, and then devise solutions that can help detect threats and then prevent access.

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LATEST PYMNTS REPORT: MARCH 2020 B2B API TRACKER  

B2B APIs aren’t just for large enterprises anymore — middle-market firms and SMBs now realize their potential for enabling low-cost access to real-time payments and account data. But those capabilities are only the tip of the API iceberg, says HSBC global head of liquidity and cash management Diane Reyes. In this month’s B2B API Tracker, Reyes explains how the next wave of banking APIs could fight payments fraud and proactively alert middle-market treasurers to investment opportunities.

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