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4 Great Ideas We Heard at the CFO Exchange

Analysis  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   August 15, 2019

Health system and hospital financial leaders share what's transforming their organizations.

Financial executives at hospitals and health systems are confident that harnessing data as an actionable tool for employees can ultimately drive down rising costs and boost revenues. They also recognize that proactive changes must be made to identify organizational vulnerabilities, quickly correct them, and pursue external growth opportunities.

These themes of "make more" and "keep more" are what financial executives are talking about now, emphasizing the need to generate greater revenues and apply effective cost-reduction strategies at their organizations.

Regardless of the size of their health system or hospital, or what region they operate in, executives can create constructive ideas about maintaining financial stability and improving shrinking margins in trying times. 

Related: 3 Real Worries Facing Hospital CFOs Today

Check out four ideas that financial leaders have been pursuing to support their respective organization's mission while staying financially solvent. These ideas were shared with HealthLeaders last week at our CFO Exchange at the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin.  

1. Savings operations in place in South Carolina

Beth Ward, CFO at Tidelands Health, mentioned that while it's important to provide employees with good data to work with, such as with physicians in real-time, it's also crucial to provide information to patients at the point of care as well. 

Ward said that while some employees may not be finance experts, supplying them with the proper information to make informed decisions can affect costs.

As it relates to reducing prescription drug costs, Ward said Tidelands primarily has a high generic drug population in its employee health plan but still allows some brands and select drugs that don't need to be there, as efficacy for these higher-cost brand drugs is not proven. 

Tidelands is in the process of partnering with experts from Duke University Health System to study what antibiotics are being used that are not necessary based on evidence-based practice. Ward said some antibiotics affect patient outcomes and length of stay, and reliance on evidence-based order sets will be a goal instead of prior practice.

2. Changing the narrative to affordability for the community

As uncertainty continues to swirl about the future of healthcare policy entering an election year, hospitals must ready themselves for whichever administration claims the White House. 

To that end, Jonathan Fisher, CFO at Parker Adventist, spoke about altering the narrative on high cost of care to focus on healthcare affordability for the community.

Fisher said that focusing on telling the story of what the organization is doing to alleviate cost concerns is one that employees can deliver to patients in an effective way but also helps engage the staff on the mission of the organization.

3. Building the brick-and-mortar

While systems are increasingly moving to care options outside of the traditional hospital setting, some organizations are investing in brick-and-mortar institutions, albeit with a twist. 

According to Jan Brosnahan of Winona Health Services, the organization is considering a new outpatient facility designed with 'Dirtt walls' – an infrastructure similar to Lego® with movable walls that can redesign the space easily with no need for demolition. 

Meanwhile, John Grigson, CFO at Covenant Health, said the system is building a medically anchored mixed use development in Lubbock, Texas.

4. Tech solutions abound

Dale Hocking, CFO at Jupiter Medical Center, said the organization hired a physician consulting group that reviews medical records, after the clinical documentation improvement team and the coders have completed their work and before the bill is sent to the payers to see if there are additional opportunities for more accurate reimbursement. 

Jupiter has an internal physician who helps the CDI team get physicians to answer queries and fight payer denials. Hocking added that the investment in physician consultants provided a 300% return on the cost. 

Ken Wheat, CFO at Eisenhower Medical Center, echoed Ward's points earlier about getting data and information out of finance and into the hands of operators so that users have good data to work with. He said that organizations should press their technological capabilities to deliver improvements. 

Related: 4 Observations From the 2018 HealthLeaders CFO Exchange

The CFO Exchange is one of six healthcare thought-leadership and networking events that HealthLeaders holds annually. While the events are invitation-only, qualified healthcare executives, senior-level and above, will be considered.

To inquire about the HealthLeaders Exchange program, email us at

Julie Auton, leadership programs editor, and Jim Molpus, leadership programs director and editor at HealthLeaders, contributed to this report.

Jack O'Brien is the Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

Photo credit: Ken Wheat, CFO at Eisenhower Medical Center, participates in a roundtable discussion during the HealthLeaders CFO Exchange at the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Spencer Selvidge)

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