'2020 was truly a baptism by fire': Tampa General CFO reflects on his first year

Mark Runyon joined Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital as executive vice president and CFO in March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic first made waves in the U.S. 

In his first year, not only was Mr. Runyon tasked with learning the ins and outs of a new health system, he also had to navigate the financial challenges brought by an unprecedented crisis.

Mr. Runyon has more than 30 years of financial leadership experience. Prior to joining Tampa General, he was vice president of operational finance at Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare.

Here, he discusses how the resurgence of COVID-19 may affect Tampa General, the accomplishment he is most proud of in his first year and his top two priorities for 2021.

Editor's Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

Question: Florida is seeing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Do you expect the rise in cases to affect finances at Tampa General Hospital?

Mark Runyon: We are starting to see an increase in COVID patients. As the essential provider of higher acuity services in our market, with constant strong demand for intensive care unit beds, the primary financial impact of COVID stems from limiting our ability to accept higher acuity admissions during times of elevated COVID census and the incremental costs of treating COVID patients.  

Q: What will financial recovery look like for Tampa General? 

MR: Financial recovery depends on many things. Will the pattern of softer emergency and elective procedure volumes continue? Will the availability and cost for PPE improve? How will COVID impact the local economy, our payer mix and governmental budgets? There are a lot of moving parts to manage, but our team has demonstrated the ability to quickly react to changing market dynamics during 2020 by working with physicians for a quick restart of elective procedures, improving top-line yield through increased focus on various revenue cycle initiatives, tightening labor management throughout the organization, effectively controlling nonlabor costs, and taking other steps to manage operating cash-flow.

Q: In your first year as CFO of Tampa General, what would you say is the accomplishment you are most proud of? 

MR: 2020 was truly a baptism by fire. While several things come to mind, helping our leadership team to quickly assess, navigate and execute the course corrections required to stabilize our finances given the shutdown of elective procedures would be the most important one.   

Q: What are your top two priorities as CFO heading into 2021? 

MR: Our growth in recent years has created several high acuity service capacity constraints. In 2021 we plan to begin a major capital expansion that will, among other things, increase our number of operating room suites and ICU capacity. A second priority will involve improving management agility through implementation and enhancement of various financial management tools.   

Q: If you could pass along one piece of advice to another hospital CFO, what would it be? 

MR: Effective financial leadership in healthcare or any industry requires a relentless pursuit of process improvement, serving up performance data that’s easily understood and actionable, and always and most importantly keeping the best interest of the patients in mind when making decisions. Doing the right thing for the patient more often than not is the right thing to do financially.

More articles on healthcare finance: 
'COVID' fee showing up on medical bills across the country
Hospitals lose billions in hit to medical tourism
Healthcare stocks jump amid hope of returning surgical volumes



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