Detroit Medical Center's youngest CFO in the Tenet Healthcare system talks about the organization's opportunities to help meet the medical needs of Detroit.
Brittany Lavis, MBA, began her healthcare career as an intern focused on quality and operational improvements. She eventually transitioned into a hospital accountant role and worked side-by-side with the present CFO at that time during budget season. It was through that experience that Lavis says she became intrigued by healthcare finance.
“I started out as an accountant and then got promoted to controller,” Lavis says. “I figured the next step wasn’t achievable without getting my graduate degree,” so she attended Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and received an MBA.
Following graduation, Lavis says she participated in a pilot program, the Tenet Finance Academy, which trains and develops young leaders. Lavis says she was offered the position of assistant CFO at Atlanta Medical Center, where she worked on the finance team under her former boss.
She then spent three years in California, where she advanced as CFO of Tenet Healthcare's Southern California Group, overseeing seven hospitals, and now holds the CFO position at the Tenet-owned Detroit Medical Center (DMC).
Lavis, the youngest CFO within Tenet Healthcare, spoke to HealthLeaders about the road ahead for DMC as it maneuvers through the changes in healthcare and aims to deliver high-quality care for the community in Detroit.
The following transcript has been lightly edited.
HealthLeaders: What are some of the biggest challenges and potential opportunities at Detroit Medical Center as you start your new role?
Brittany Lavis: Whenever I look at DMC, what I see is opportunity. I hear about so many cool things that we do and it's hard not to be excited about what all there is to be done.
Today, we were in a meeting talking about leading the nation at several of our facilities for neurosciences and having a children's hospital, and all of the great services that we offer to the state of Michigan for children's services.
There are different revenue cycle opportunities that we can look at and I'm excited about that. It has nothing to do with cutting costs or impacting patient care, but how do we make sure that we keep the money that we earn through reducing denials and making sure that we're doing appropriate reviews [of our operations]. There are a lot of opportunities and I'm excited about that.
HL: As Tenet's youngest chief finance officer, what have you learned through your experience in the position?
Lavis: Part of the good thing about moving across different facilities is that I've been able to see a lot of different leadership styles and that's been helpful being younger in my career, because you can start thinking to yourself, 'That's how I want to be, or that's not how I want to be,' and keeping that constant check on yourself and how you want to show up as a leader.
HL: Is there anything that you've been exposed to in a leadership style that you've found to be effective for you? Other CFOs I've talked to emphasize collaboration efforts with the clinical team, for example.
Lavis: I would say that's huge. Partnering with the subject matter experts and making sure they're at the table not only helps you be successful in what you're working on, but it also helps them feel included and you don't end up with the issue of, 'I wasn't involved in that, so why am I finding out about it now?'
I believe in [the dynamic] of having the CFO and CNO be best friends because the more that we can work and walk lockstep together, the better off we're going to be. If we come together as one versus two entities, it's going to help the overall success of the facility.
HL: How is Detroit Medical Center best positioned to navigate the next two to three years of changes in healthcare and what plans is it pursuing?
Lavis: Something that I'm personally passionate about is population health and how do we foundationally change our society's view on health, instead of making it “sick care” and truly making it healthcare?
On the flip side of that, it can then become a challenge for the hospital business, in general, because [if] we have a healthier population, it's harder for hospitals to be relevant.
I'm still learning how the DMC is shaping for that future, but I think that we offer high-acuity services and so a lot of those things are still going to be needed going into the future. But, also, with our residency program and our presence in the community with our clinic, I think we are already positioned in a way where we can start improving health conditions that cause a lot of unnecessary admissions that could be [addressed] if you're teaching people how to better care for themselves.
I would say that DMC has already have done a good job with that, as [the organization] has been involved with Medicare accountable care organizations and have seen great results. I think the DMC is probably at the forefront of that and that's one of the things that excited me about coming here. I think we are in a better position than other places to be ready for that healthcare change.
Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders.