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Analysis

How Hospital CFOs Will Invest This Year

By Jack O'Brien  
   February 20, 2020

CFOs are staying focused on opportunities for long-term investments that will benefit the bottom line and weather industry uncertainty.

Hospital and health system chief financial officers (CFO) from around the nation see opportunities to respond to changes in the industry by strategically placing their investment dollars in growth areas.

CFOs are looking for the most effective ways to invest in their healthcare organizations and put them in the best position to succeed.

These strategies were discussed at the HealthLeaders Winter CFO Exchange at The Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans, February 12–14. 

Below are three takeaways from CFOs about where their organizations are investing resources:

1. Expand access points for patients

CFOs need to respond to evolving patient expectations about care and expand access sites beyond the traditional brick-and-mortar hospital location.

To address this, provider organizations have established processes to streamline the patient experience and assist employees on the clinical side.

"Northwell established two Patient Access Centers that schedule physician appointments for all service lines regardless of office location," says Sharon Joy, CFO of Northwell Health’s Western Region. "Call center agents follow service line algorithms that have automated the necessary questions in order to match the patient with the appropriate specialist. The agents do 'warm handoffs,' including connecting patients to clinical navigators, financial clearance, or patient accounting. Through writing notes in the EHR, the agents also facilitate prescription renewals and lab result reporting by the practices."

Related: Three Notes From the Winter CFO Exchange

Steve Oglesby, CFO, vice president and treasurer at Baptist Health in Louisville, says that improving the patient experience is an area the organization researched prior to making a financial investment.

“We conducted studies and found that when patients were ready to be discharged, many of them would often stay in the hospital for another 12 hours before someone could get them," Oglesby says. "And, we have three hospitals in which we don’t have enough beds. To increase the patient experience for convenience and reduce length of stay, we purchased two ambulance services to transport patients to their postacute destination. It was worth the investment for us to reduce length of stay."

Leaders have also recognized the shift from inpatient to outpatient care settings and adapted their organizations' approach to care delivery.

"MetroHealth has demonstrated consistency with our strategies to improve community access and focus on wellness and preventative care delivery models," says Craig Richmond, CFO at The MetroHealth System in Cleveland. "With our emphasis on preventative care, approximately 98% of our patient care is now delivered in an outpatient setting.  This has also resulted in 97% of our county residents living within a 10-minute drive of one of MetroHealth’s outpatient facilities. Our patients are able to get care when they want it, how they want and where they want it."

Related: How CEOs Approach Their Critical Choices: 3 Insights

2. Invest in innovation

CFOs know that as technology advances and virtual care options become more widely available, their organizations will need to lead the effort to maximize healthcare innovation opportunities.

"Innovation is how you grow in the pediatric world, such as the ability to conduct rapid whole genome sequencing," says Kathleen Cain, CFO of Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego. 

Leaders also acknowledge the popularization of telehealth among patients, but understand that systems cannot fully embrace the concept without sufficient reimbursement rates to cover the cost of care.

Related: 4 Great Ideas We Heard at the 2019 CFO Exchange

3. Recruit physicians and remain independent 

For many hospitals that are not part of a large health system, a top priority is maintaining independence while still meeting the needs of their community. 

Beth Ward, CFO at Tidelands Health, says that, “Partnering heavily is our avenue for staying independent.”

A major factor that goes into sustaining an independent, functional provider organization is recruiting clinical talent to the hospital, Ward says, and retaining them as employees for several years afterwards.

"We’re projecting our population service area to increase from 600,000 to 900,000 in a few years, so our physician need is significant," Ward says. "That’s an investment and not a return on investment. So, how do you find a balance on that investment? We’re focusing on recruiting, rewarding, and retaining physicians in a competitive marketplace, with one strategy to retain our residents.”

Related: 3 Ways CNOs Can Improve Workplace Culture

The CFO Exchange is one of six healthcare thought-leadership and networking events that HealthLeaders holds annually, allowing knowledge to be shared in a comfortable setting.

To inquire about the HealthLeaders Exchange program, email us at exchange@healthleadersmedia.com.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include commentary from Craig Richmond at The MetroHealth System.

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

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

Photo credit: Several members participate in a roundtable discussion during the HealthLeaders Winter CFO Exchange at The Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans. (Spencer Selvidge)


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