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4 Observations From the 2018 HealthLeaders CFO Exchange

By Jack O'Brien  
   August 14, 2018

Last week's CFO Exchange in Santa Barbara fostered a dynamic conversation between hospital finance leaders on issues facing their respective systems. 

The 2018 HealthLeaders CFO Exchange brought more than 40 leading health system CFOs from across the country together at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara, California to discuss the changing internal and external dynamics of the healthcare journey. 

CFOs participated in workgroups and breakout sessions aimed at reviewing the overall efficiency of the clinical enterprise and considering the potential impact of external disrupting factors to the healthcare industry. The exchange of ideas brought out engaging conversations on how to make improvements not only for their bottom line, but the experience of their patients as well. 

Below are four areas that prompted significant discussion between our Exchange attendees. 


1. Finding effective ROI in internal projects 

  • Two significant areas where CFOs have been examining their ROI are internal service projects and core capital related to expansion operations. 
  • In both spaces, leaders agreed that it is necessary to include clinical staff on conversations relating to financial strategy so that physicians are on board with the organization's overall direction.
  • There was also discussion about how to interpret ROI data, suggesting that leaders decide to focus on specified metrics for improved performance. 
  • One CFO remarked that collecting data is important but warned that data is "meaningless" unless systems know how to harness it.


2. Being more available for patients

  • Nearly all attendees were in agreement that hospitals must meet their patients in more locations, through additional mediums, going forward. 
  • This includes the continued expansion of brick-and-mortar facilities and outpatient health clinics, as well as embracing telehealth options for millennial and rural patients.
  • CFOs acknowledged that this is a challenging approach to navigate, given the divergent care needs and expectations between baby boomers and millennials. 
  • Leaders also stated that they have felt the push from growing consumerism and are adapting their business strategies going forward to improve patient satisfaction. 


3. Balancing the needs of boomers and millennials

  • There is a fine line CFOs must walk between maintaining traditional service options for boomers while meeting the burgeoning needs of millennials as they enter the healthcare marketplace.
  • Attendees noted that updating and expanding brick-and-mortar medical centers is imperative as boomer patients age, even though the physical structures may not be ideal long-term financial investments.
  • However, systems must also work to engage millennial patients through digital technologies and convenient locations since they are more likely to search for available and affordable options that meet their needs.  
  • This dynamic applies not only to investment projects but hiring staff as well, given that boomers are aging out of clinical staff populations while millennial employees replace them.


4. EHR costs remain elusive for most systems

  • Savings from EHR are still an outstanding issue for most systems, including some that are exploring their options at the end of a contract.
  • Investments in IT development and EHR take up a sizable portion of a hospital's budget, though most have not seen their operations become more efficient. 
  • However, some system leaders are looking to hire outside of the traditional healthcare mold to bolster their IT operations and improve performance. 


Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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