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The Exec: How The CFO of Baptist Health South Florida Is Assessing Growth Among Economic Hardships

Analysis  |  By Amanda Schiavo  
   February 08, 2023

Matthew Arsenault chats with HealthLeaders about expanding the health system among economic hardships and labor shortages.

The CFOs at hospitals and health systems are dealing with a myriad of challenges that have been impacting their organizations' financial wellness, and one large challenge has to do with staffing and labor.

Indeed, 85% percent of hospitals, medical groups, home health providers, and other healthcare facilities are experiencing a shortage of allied healthcare professionals, according to research from AMN Healthcare. Burnout and insufficient wages are some of the leading contributing factors to this shortage.

As organizations work to understand what financial wellness in a COVID-19-adjacent world looks like, reevaluating certain projects—like expanding—will be a critical factor in maintaining their economic well-being.

Baptist Health South Florida, a Coral Gables, Florida-based healthcare provider with $5.1 billion in total revenue, has been working hard to overcome the monetary pressures being placed on the organization by the ongoing labor crisis as well as other factors currently impacting healthcare providers. CFO Matthew Arsenault recently spoke with HealthLeaders and shared his views on how organizations can meet the demands of these challenges.

HealthLeaders: What can healthcare providers do to avoid overpaying for labor?

Matthew Arsenault: The pandemic affected all aspects related to labor and that was really due to that labor shortage and clinical labor shortage that existed at the time. So, we're doing many things here at Baptist Health to deal with that. One thing is a greater focus on our employees. We've always been an employee-friendly organization that’s consistently ranked among the top in the country. We need to make sure our employee experience is great and that we pay competitively within the market—which can be a challenge, but it's something we're committed to as an organization.

We’re also investing in the pipeline. It’s critical to have that pipeline of nurses and clinicians who are out in the community helping to educate more nurses and other clinical staff. We've partnered with numerous academic institutions throughout South Florida to help support that initiative.

HL: Inflation is something hospitals have no control over. So, what solutions exist to the challenges caused by rising inflation?

Arsenault: The biggest part of that is just reassessing any plans for growth and major capital, just like anybody would normally do with their personal decisions with regard to major purchasing. Health Systems must do the same. We are in a community and a service area that is growing through people continuously moving into South Florida. So, we want to make sure that we provide care, but deciding which projects happen when and evaluating the cost of those projects and inflationary environment is something that we're constantly doing more of now, and more frequently than we have been historically because of the current inflationary environment.

HL: What are your growth and investment plans for 2023?

Arsenault: One of our major projects is rebuilding our main hospital in Boca Raton, Florida. We’re also working on increasing our outpatient footprint. We have another major project we're evaluating but I can’t go into details on that yet. We're in the evaluation mode as it relates to that. Again, I think that one thing that's a little bit unique with South Florida is the opportunity for real rapid growth. So that's what really trying to assess the timing of those projects because the demand is there.

HL: You mentioned increasing your outpatient footprint. From other conversations with CFOs in healthcare, it seems that there is a trend of shifting to more outpatient procedures. Is that something Baptist considers a priority and what makes the shift so important?

Arsenault: We've always had a very large outpatient footprint throughout the community, and I think that really served us and our patients well. It's all about how you provide easy access to care for patients, whether it be in a virtual setting, whether it be in an outpatient clinic, or whether it be in an urgent care center. So, it’s about continuing to build upon that. I think that shift to outpatient is a big part of that.

HL: What do you consider to be a critical part of the CFO role?

Arsenault: We have to really be great at explaining to operational folks and strategy folks, the financial impact of our decisions, and how we can work together to provide patient care in the most cost-effective manner. I love that part of my role now is to educate folks about the finances of what they're doing and help them understand the role finance plays. We don't want our clinicians to be finance folks, we want them to care for patients. It’s about how we can educate them so that they know enough about what they're doing and make smart decisions to still provide the right care.

Amanda Schiavo is the Finance Editor for HealthLeaders.

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