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New Spectrum Health CFO Tackles EMR Upgrade, Cost Containment

By Christopher Cheney  
   January 30, 2018

Challenges at the Michigan-based health system include revenue cycle optimization after the installation of a new medical record system and finding ways to match cost increases with the rate of general inflation.

Matthew Cox, CPA, MBA, has a lengthy list of goals as the new senior vice president and CFO of Spectrum Health, including optimization of a new electronic medical record, expansion of consumer-oriented programs such as online platforms, containing costs, and increasing risk-based contracting.

Prior to joining the 13-hospital Grand Rapids, Michigan-based health system, Cox served as senior vice president of finance operations at Phoenix-based Banner Health. Spectrum also owns a 783,000-member health plan, Priority Health.

HealthLeaders Media spoke recently with Cox, who is succeeding Ron Knaus after his retirement. Following is a lightly edited transcript of that conversation.

HLM: In 2018, what are Spectrum’s primary financial challenges?

Cox: Tactically, we just went live on Epic clinical and billing systems in our Grand Rapids hospitals, and our community hospitals and the remainder of the health system will go live in May. So, in my first 90 days, I will create a comprehensive assessment of the current state of revenue cycle. After that assessment, I will put together a 24-month work plan. We understand that we won't be able to maximize the functionality all at once, so we have asked our consultants to help our revenue cycle leadership develop a 24-month work plan to keep our improvements on track.

HLM: Why are you conducting the comprehensive assessment?

Cox: As a result of this system conversion, we have experienced a temporary increase in receivables, as expected. I expect we will see receivables return to historical levels by the end of our fiscal year in June. 

We need to make sure we are optimizing the system, so it is easy for our providers and employees to use, and we get bills out to patients with the information they need in a way that's not confusing.

Patient-balance responsibility, co-pay and coinsurance, and pricing transparency in healthcare is not on par with other industries, and that is something I am going to be working on.

HLM: What is Spectrum's primary strategic challenge?

Cox: Strategically, the biggest challenge is shared with the entire industry—our insurance products and clinical services are becoming too expensive. The prices of services continue to outpace general inflation.

The entire industry is ripe for disruptive innovation, and we have to be better at controlling our costs and eliminating unnecessary utilization, then pass those improvements on to our customers.

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.

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