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COVID, Costs, and Care: How CFOs Are Keeping Healthcare Orgs Financially Stable

Analysis  |  By HealthLeaders Media Staff  
   September 01, 2021

Financial executive leaders discuss how they are monitoring costs and care as they move their healthcare organizations past COVID-19.

Editor's note: This article is based on a roundtable discussion report sponsored by Vizient. The full report, Where Do Healthcare Finance Executives Go From Here? is available as a free download.

Finance executives from healthcare organizations across the nation met up this summer to participate in HealthLeaders' Healthcare System of the Future virtual roundtable discussion to talk about their organizations' financial standing, strategies for maintaining margins across sites of care, and planning for a sustainable trajectory. The following are highlights from the discussion.

Where does your organization stand financially?

Several financial executives explained where their organizations stood as they emerge from the economic strife caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Denise Chamberlain, CPA, MAEd, CFO at Edward-Elmhurst Health in Naperville, Illinois, said, "We think we've turned the corner. We measure our results, excluding subsidies, each month to see where we’re going [so we can keep] going forward when those subsidies aren't here anymore. So, we’re looking at our volumes and our revenues and our expenses."

And Carlos Bohorquez, CFO at El Camino Health in Mountain View, California, said, "We've rebounded well from the pandemic, but that being said, I see a lot of headwinds related to revenue. We're having conversations with the payers, and the year-over-year increases we saw historically are a thing of the past. … Part of my conversations with the leaders of our organization is explaining why we've done historically well, financially speaking, but also educating the leaders about why we need to manage variable expenses and gradually become more efficient without compromising care and quality."

Staffing: A cost concern

An issue that is challenging financial leaders and was exacerbated during the pandemic is controlling costs around staffing shortages.

Anthony Colletta, CPA, CFO at Westmed Medical Group in Rye Brook, New York, said, "One of the challenges that we're going to have to deal with is this transition from furloughing staff to not having enough staff. That's become our biggest focus and that's going to be a delicate balance that we're going to have to handle as we're trying to control costs, but we know we are going to have to invest in our labor force. … We're going to invest in benefit programs, competitive compensation, and make sure we're at or above market. Those are all going to cost money. We're going to have to find savings elsewhere to ensure that we can address those issues."

Providers and payers: The shift toward value-based care

Healthcare providers found themselves working more closey with payer organizations during the pandemic to work out reimbursement. Financial executives discussed how they see the collaboration between payers and providers working in terms of shifting to value-based care models.

"I'm not convinced that [value-based care strategies are] ever going to arrive passively. There are too many tectonic plates that have to arrive to make a fundamental business model shift from fee-for-service to value.  … It's incumbent on all healthcare providers—ambulatory, integrated delivery systems, and inpatient systems—to evaluate and develop an opinion on the business plan outlook of a true, purposeful, forceful shift driven by the providers into a value-based care strategy," says Brandon Clark, executive vice president of corporate development at Equality Health in Phoenix.

View the complete HealthLeaders Roundtable report: Where Do Healthcare Finance Executives Go From Here?

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