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How Do You Gain a CFO's Support for Quality and Patient Safety Programs?

Heather Comak, for HealthLeaders Media, June 24, 2009

As more hospitals cut their budgets, it's important for staff members who work in quality and patient safety to understand what points to illustrate when making a case for joining a new initiative, launching a new quality improvement program, or asking for increased resources in the name of patient safety.

Depending on the size of the facility, people in different positions may be in charge of determining how to divvy up the budget or advocate for how to best use existing resources. That decision will usually include some involvement from the chief financial officer or other members of the hospital's executive team.

"Realize that CFOs now are more abreast of the clinical issues, and not just a number cruncher as they were 10, 15, or 20 years ago," says John Domansky, CFO at Knoxville (IA) Hospital and Clinics. "There's a lot more of a balanced approach now in the CFO world than there was in the past."

How to make your case

Domansky, who makes financial decisions for a critical access hospital licensed for 25 beds, says that he is interested most in programs that will minimize the hospital's risk, and in that vein, he'll pay more attention to those programs emphasizing a proactive approach to patient care (e.g., arguing for a bar-coding program for medications to prevent potential medication errors). However, if a staff member from quality or patient safety is presenting an idea to him, he stresses that he is interested in the hard facts of why that program is necessary.

"Make sure they have all their facts—what are we avoiding?" asks Domansky. "What are we saving here? How can we potentially justify this? If it was your money, how would you spend it? Try to anticipate the questions ahead of time." Specifically, he points to data concerning the number of incidences of a specific error and information gained from any root cause analyses done.

That same sentiment was echoed by Corey Reeves, CFO of Gordon Hospital, a 69-bed facility in Calhoun, GA, owned by Adventist Health System.

"It's important to be well-prepared," says Reeves. "Come with having thought through multiple sides of the argument, so that they can talk through and show that they have thought through all that that entails, the value added." It's apparent to Reeves and other members of the leadership team when someone has not anticipated these questions and prepared answers for them, he said.

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