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Half Blame Feds for Healthcare Industry Mess

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, February 21, 2012

Though the larger healthcare picture is causing concern for all healthcare leaders, when it comes to the state of their individual organization, finance leaders are optimistic. Nearly 60% feel their organization is on the right track, according to the survey.

This may be due to the renewed organizational financial strength hospitals and health systems are finding after several years of cost cutting, says Pumpian. Thirty-five percent of survey respondents say the organization's current cash on hand is 31–90 days, and 36% have reached 91–189 days. Moreover, half (50%) of finance leaders say they have accounts receivable days at 36–50 days, and 27% report it at 51–75 days. Additionally, 58% of finance leaders report a 2011 EBIDA/EBITDA margin of between 0%–3.5% and nearly a third (32%) report it at or above 3.6%. 

"There's a lot at stake with investment returns now, so CFO responses may vary with this answer depending on whether these are having a strong financial performance and/or if they are seeing greater operational performance," says Pumpian.

However, she notes, 2012 does offer finance leaders some certainties that 2013 lacks, which may explain why 58% of finance leaders feel positive or strongly positive about their organization's financial forecast.

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2 comments on "Half Blame Feds for Healthcare Industry Mess"


Alton Brantley, MD,PhD (2/24/2012 at 3:50 PM)
The reason for the discrepancy in the survey regarding government interventions is straightforward: What was sought from the government was standardization in data formats and interchange, so that medical information would not be tied into specific EHRs, and that different vendors and payers wouldn't make life more complicated for hospitals, health systems, and doctors. What the government provided was rigid coercion of adoption of incompatible systems and multiple changing expectations all occurring during the same time frame. The end result is that hospitals and doctors are spending more time changing systems, meeting deadlines, reprioritizing, and disrupting patient care. As an example of how this COULD have worked, the internet, specifically the web-supporting data standards, started simply, grew in a stepwise fashion, and have enabled an explosion of creativity and utility, without certifying browsers and setting up unreasonable and expensive conversion processes. The problem of physician adoption would have melted away from the aging of the clinical population (technicians, nurses, and doctors), and costs would have gone down, not up. Finally, had the government adopted state of the art technology, rather than the enshrined fixed field, positional coding structure of documents, computer processing could have been accomplished through evolution rather than gut-wrenching cutovers.

Phyllis Kritek, RN, PhD (2/21/2012 at 9:49 AM)
I am hoping that one of the analyses of this very excellent survey will grapple with three interacting and amazingly contradictory findings: 1. 59% of your respondents said the reason that the health care industry could not solve its own problems was "too much self-interest among the different stakeholders". The second highest response, which I think is related, focused on lack of incentive to innovate and garnered only 14%, so I consider this pretty high consensus. 2. Having established why the industry cannot save itself, the blame for the current state of affairs put the it squarely on the government (40%)! I was startled: we can't work together so we cannot fix ourselves, but it is the government's fault. 3. Then, the highest ranking answer for who will save the industry is hospitals (22%) unless you ponder the nebulous "other" at 31%. Apparently, we are going to save ourselves from the awful government intrusion while acknowledging we cannot do so due to competing self-interest agendas among ourselves. Your final analysis focuses on the need to collaborate as "the common theme". Recalling my freshman level logic classes, as I read this: a. We do not know how to work together, with our self-interest corroding our efforts at collaboration. b. We think we should be the ones to fix this. c. Therefore: it is all the government's fault. I look forward to an analysis of this interesting finding.