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Analysis

Healthcare CFOs More Likely to Accelerate Automation, Expect Higher Demand for Employee Protections

By Jack O'Brien  
   April 27, 2020

Additionally, more than 80% of healthcare CFOs expect revenues to decline this year.

Compared to the broader swath of CFOs, healthcare finance leaders are more likely to accelerate automation tools and also expect a higher demand for employee protections in the next month, according to the latest PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) CFO Pulse survey released Monday afternoon. 

Over half of healthcare CFOs reported that they plan to "accelerate automation and new ways of working," compared to 40% of CFOs overall. Seven-out-of-ten healthcare CFOs also expect demand for employee protections to rise in May, compared with only half of CFOs overall.

Anticipating the sizable negative impact of the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, the survey found that nearly one-third of all CFOs expect layoffs and a majority expect company revenues to fall at least 10% this year.

Meanwhile, more than 80% of healthcare CFOs expect revenues to decline this year, as hospitals have temporarily canceled elective procedures in order to handle the influx of patients infected with COVID-19.

Additionally, just over 40% of healthcare CFOs listed "tools to better understand customer demand" among the top three priorities for their organization.

Half of the overall respondents expect remote work setups for employees to remain in place for the foreseeable future, while nearly 80% plan to make adjustments to protect workers, such as through testing protocols.

Related: Just Over 25% of CFOs Anticipate Layoffs Because of Pandemic

The global pandemic, which has infected millions and killed thousands, has already impacted how consumers plan to spend on healthcare visits and medications, according to a PwC consumer survey also released Monday. 

Almost 80% of consumers expect to skip one healthcare visit in 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, while 30% predict they will spend more on these visits.

Over one-fifth of consumers reported that they have made or were planning to adjust their spending on medications.

Most respondents said they are concerned about potential shortages for prescription drugs, with 22% of these consumers saying they would "''stretch' the medication they had by skipping doses."

Meanwhile, 9% of respondents said they would stop taking their medication in an effort to save money.

Related: Ratings Agencies Change Healthcare Outlook to Negative Due to Coronavirus

The findings serve as a troubling sign for healthcare leaders trying to anticipate the long-term impact of the virus on the clinical and cost structures of the industry.

"Delaying procedures, reducing spending on preventive care and chronic care, and decreasing adherence to medications may have negative long-term impacts on health status, although the extent is unknown," the survey stated. "Getting consumers to come back for care may depend on how much trust the health system can build with them over the next few months." 

Another metric that might lend insights into how the pandemic has affected healthcare consumer behavior is the continued popularization of telehealth services.

The survey found that while only 5% of consumers said they know someone who has used telemedicine for the first time during this pandemic, 88% of those initial users indicated they would use the virtual care solutions again.

The CFO Pulse Survey indicated that utilizing telehealth would be an effective strategy for healthcare organizations to protect both patients and caregivers during the pandemic.

Related: 97% of Physician Practices Take COVID-19 Financial Hit

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


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