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One-On-One With LCMC Health's CFO JoAnn Kunkel

Analysis  |  By Amanda Schiavo  
   April 26, 2022

The industry veteran discusses her new role at LCMC Health and how she plans to help the health system realize its strategic vision.

Building up a hospital system requires an expert who can navigate various challenges efficiently. That is why LCMC Health has named healthcare industry veteran JoAnn Kunkel as its new CFO.

Kunkel has spent the bulk of her nearly 30-year career with Sanford Health, where she was part of a team that built a system from a single hospital with about $250 million in total revenue, to a $6.5 billion fully integrated system with healthcare facilities in more than five states.

HealthLeaders recently connected with Kunkel to learn more about her goals for her new role, how she plans to help LCMC Health — a New Orleans-based, non-profit health system with $1.7 billion in annual revenue — realize its vision, and what the challenges facing healthcare CFOs are today.

HealthLeaders: Why did you decide to join LCMC Health?

JoAnn Kunkel: I enjoy healthcare and building a system, and it's just an amazing opportunity with LCMC Health. They are a new system in the New Orleans area, and they have a great culture and vision for where they want to be. We have six hospitals in the city of New Orleans, and we are on the edge of figuring out how to build shared service models and build on the efficiency and expertise that you gain by coming together and building a system. I felt like I could make a difference in their vision of being efficient and providing the best patient care.

HealthLeaders: How will your previous experience help LCMC grow?

Kunkel: I was in a position at Sanford Health where for almost 25 years, I got to sit at the executive table—not always as a top executive—but as a person that got to be part of the discussions and debates and making things happen. When I started, we did not have any physicians that were part of Sanford. When I left, there was nearly 1,500. We were hiring, acquiring, emerging, implementing systems, and creating a centralized shared finance service. I had such a great experience with Sanford that I know I can help with this team at LCMC Health. I can see what they want to do and bring a different view to the table of what might help them become a better system.

HealthLeaders: How can hospitals and healthcare systems cut costs without sacrificing their workforce?

Kunkel: It's about being more efficient and having people work to the top of their ability. It's about being able to focus on what's important and making sure that you're automating what you can and supplementing with resources to help people work at the top of their skill sets. We must look at things like that as we move forward and plan for the future. You must have the right number of people to be effective and efficient, but also be as nimble and lean as you can.

HealthLeaders: What should healthcare CFOs be focusing on in 2022, as the pandemic continues to be an issue?

Kunkel: The biggest thing we're all struggling with is, what is the new normal? 2019 was the last time things were normal, then 2020 it was a total pandemic, 2021 was up and down. In January and February of this year things were difficult for healthcare in the United States, emergency department volumes were changing and there were such labor shortages. So, how do we work more efficiently? How do we adjust to the new volumes? We were already looking at shifting from inpatient to outpatient and home-based care. And that's been exacerbated by the pandemic, and those trends are going to continue.

HealthLeaders: What would you say is the biggest challenge healthcare CFOs are facing today? What are some ways to solve it?

Kunkel: The payer/provider relationships, interdependencies and involvement with patients is always changing. Financing is important to everybody, so those relationships continue to evolve and they're taking on more risk. A lot of us started out taking just upside risk, and now we're taking on downside risk, and full risk when you're working with your payers—that's huge. Population health has a different definition for almost everyone who does it. So understanding what's important to you and your system is going to be important. Everyone is talking about supply chain disruptions, supply chain inflation, the bottlenecks, those things in healthcare have been an issue for the past two years. It's not an easy turnaround, so becoming more efficient in revenue cycle is going to take automation technology. Artificial Intelligence is big in that space, and if can you optimize your revenue cycle and automate it that will help with labor. Technology is the foundation of almost everything that we do today.

Amanda Schiavo is the Finance Editor for HealthLeaders.

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