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Achieving Financial Inclusion Requires Multifaceted Strategies – Like Mastercard’s New Touch Card

2.2 billion.

That’s the number of visually impaired people around the world that Mastercard is committed to bringing into the financial fold, with the introduction of a new accessible card for severely visually impaired and partially sighted people.

Scheduled for worldwide launch in the first quarter of 2022, the Touch Card is an improvement upon the current standard design, using a system of notches on the side of the card to help consumers differentiate between a credit, debit or prepaid card based on the round, broad squarish and triangular notches, respectively.

In an interview with PYMNTS, Mastercard’s Healthcare President Raja Rajamannar said the idea was to use braille – a tactile reading and writing system using raised dots that can be read with the fingers – for the cards, but they quickly realized that it would pose a problem for people in their target market.

“I was pretty surprised that more than 90% of the people who are sight-impaired don’t know how to read braille,” Rajamannar said – a realization that reinforced Mastercard’s commitment to developing a simple solution, without the need for major education.

To be deployed at scale, the card has been designed to work with point-of-sale terminals and ATM machines. The company piloted the product through its work with organizations like The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in the U.K. and VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired in the U.S. – both of which have vetted and endorsed the card.

And while the product is primarily meant for those who are partially sighted or have severe visual impairments, its capabilities go way beyond that population, noted Rajamannar – it can serve people in low-light situations [like] inside in a movie theater, for example.

“Given how this card works and how it solves a real problem, we are very optimistic that banks will absolutely adopt this,” he said.

Rajamannar added that financial inclusion is one of the core areas of focus for the card network behemoth, which has a goal to bring one billion people into the realm of digital payments and enable them to access digital finance.

But it’s not going to happen through one single initiative, he noted. “I would say the Touch Card is one more sincere attempt to bring in people who otherwise are either not included or have pain points that give them a poor experience.”

And those attempts are part of a wider movement for accessible finance, one that Rajamannar said should not cease – because it ensures that no individuals or communities are excluded or isolated. 

Fixing the Broken Healthcare System

Earlier this year, a study conducted by PYMNTS in collaboration with Brighterion, a Mastercard company, revealed that continued “fraud, waste and abuse” (FWA) is negatively impacting how healthcare payers manage claims and payments, not to mention the nearly 12% of annual revenues that entities lose as a result.

Related news: AI In Focus: Targeting Fraud, Waste and Abuse in Healthcare

As Rajamannar said noted, it’s the reason Mastercard has been working to address these “inefficiencies and vulnerabilities” in the healthcare system, using the capabilities and expertise it has built in the payment card space around the world.

For example, the company is using safety tools like its Early Detection System to assist hospitals in combating FWA, while the firm’s purchase assurance solution is helping to minimize losses and reduce non-payment of consumer bills.

Helping with solutions for cybersecurity attacks is another key area in which the payments firm is actively involved, using its Digital ID services to nip data breaches in the bud.

“Nearly a third of all large data breaches in the United States happened from the healthcare system,” Rajamannar pointed out, explaining that the paper forms a patient fills out during hospital visits is an easy avenue for identity theft and fraud, given the detailed personal information provided.

But even with the huge challenges facing hospitals and insurance companies, Rajamannar said Mastercard has advanced data analytics for credit cards, debit cards or any payment method that can be used in the context of healthcare, to help reduce costs and increase security throughout the entire system.

“We are pushing on cylinders to see how we can fix and contribute to the improvement of the healthcare system […] by putting in an earnest effort,” he said.

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