HealthLeaders Media’s 2012 Industry Survey is now under way. This annual survey is the top source of healthcare industry insight, and I encourage you to take it. In looking forward, however, it helps to reflect on this year’s survey data. Here are my predictions for the top concerns facing healthcare financial leaders, based on our 2011 Industry Survey and conversations over the past year with many CFOs.
Prediction 1: Cost-cutting will intensify. In our 2011 Industry Survey, financial leaders ranked cost reductions as their number-one priority (it ranked second in 2010). And at our recent HealthLeaders Media CFO Exchange, financial leaders made it clear that with reimbursement cuts pending, cost reductions will remain the top priority.
I anticipate that cost-cutting will become even more challenging in 2012. Although finance is not traditionally thought of as a “creative field,” CFOs will need to come up with ingenious ways to save money.
Clinical spend is one area that financial leaders are going to have to dissect under a microscope. I spoke last week with a CFO who was about pitch to his clinical staff the idea of reducing the number of surgical packs being opened per procedure. The protocol calls for two packs to be opened, though the second is rarely used. With the cost of individual surgical packs running into thousands of dollars, the simple act of opening only one pack (unless the second is needed) could result in millions in savings for this facility. Of course, there is a caveat: the financial leader first needs support of the clinical staff. Prepare yourself for some tough conversations and a lot of pushback.
Prediction 2: Medicare payments will be mixed. Medicare has been ruffling feathers for decades, and 2012 won’t be any different. Overall, healthcare organizations are dealing with either flat or reduced reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid, and financial leaders aren’t anticipating changes in the coming year.