Thursday, October 23, 2014

Building better financial planners: what we can learn from crowdsourcing GPs

In 2012, news from the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) was that a medical study suggested 57% of adult Australians were receiving “appropriate” (read ‘good enough’) GP care. That left a whopping 43% in the sample group of more than 1,000 who did not receive “appropriate care”.
Sound familiar? Reminds me of a recent ASIC report and media announcement about life insurance. While there are key differences (churn of life cover for commission perhaps) there are enough similarities to think more broadly about what might be most helpful to advisers who want to do the best by their clients – which most do.
Medicos and crowdsourcing
Consider this:
  • GPs are among some of the most overburdened in our health care system
  • They have limited time and resources to see, diagnose and treat thousands of diverse conditions
  • They’re not God. And we’re unreasonable if we expect them to be.
So how does a busy GP ensure (i.e. be certain or near enough) they’re doing better than getting it right half the time? They use a MJA “wiki” – a social, collaborative tool a la “Wikipedia”. Overseen by experts, it is intended to provide a “dynamic, centralised and inclusive platform — openly available to all to contribute to and use — that will help empower clinicians to deliver the best care”.
This is a huge leap for medical practitioners, who had been (and often still are) complaining about their patients’ propensity to resort to “Google Doctor”, while at the same time, on occasion, being well behind the eight ball when faced with an intelligent, curious and well researched (read, Google-doctored) patient.
Which brings us to the question: if this approach is good enough for medicos, why isn’t it good enough for our banks, insurers, wealth advisers, financial planners, credit card companies and financial services providers as they serve us on our own personal journeys towards better financial futures?
Here are a few key lines from the 2012 MJA abstract covering the study, which was designed to measure how well we deliver “appropriate care” to patients in Australia (doi: 10.5694/mja12.10510). Change the aim of “appropriate” or “recommended” care to “appropriate” or “quality” advice and its applicability to financial planners and others in the wealth industry is immediately apparent.
  1. “The researchers were aiming to reproduce a landmark 2003 study that found that only 55% of patients in the United States received “recommended care”…findings are essentially the same — that almost half of patients are not receiving appropriate care….
  2. “…challenge that practitioners regularly face — how to access reliable, updated and credible information about appropriate care, and how to make clinical decisions in the absence of this information.
  3. “…Runciman et al suggest a way to achieve national agreement on clinical standards…we (the MJA) are already working with the Cancer Council Australia to deliver a “wiki” guideline tool on our website … a dynamic, centralised and inclusive platform — openly available to all to contribute to and use — that will help empower clinicians to deliver the best care.”
We can’t reasonably expect our GPs to be God, or even close to omnipotent, but we can expect that when such a tool exists, they can use it to improve their diagnoses and treatment plans.
Still wondering about social media in financial services?
How long before such a wiki helps financial planners, and their clients, arrive at better decisions about long term financial planning? Or helps you make better decisions about the cheapest and best credit card? Or when to flick the mortgage provider and change banks? Choose a super fund? Or how to really cost the services the bank provides?
Hopefully such solutions will be made possible by joint industry efforts, collaborating with consumers, to develop social tools that give us all access to better financial decisions.
It would seem that whether we seek to be healthier, wealthier or wiser, the long-predicted democratisation of information through social media is now a reality.
This blog is an edited and updated version of a blog first published on 16 July 2012 on

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Thanks for reading. Constructive and relevant comments welcome!