4 healthcare CFOs on the essential skills finance chiefs need today

The role of the hospital and health system CFO is evolving amid industry changes such as the shift to value-based care.

CFOs today are becoming more strategic and generally play a greater role in operations. All of this requires different skills, beyond traditional financial and business acumen.

Becker's Hospital Review caught up with four financial leaders from hospitals and health systems who weighed in on the essential skills a CFO needs to be successful in today's healthcare market.

Jeff Wakefield, CFO of Marion (Ind.) General Hospital: "One essential skill I feel CFOs should have is being able to build meaningful relationships, not only with staff, but also members of our community… There are many initiatives in which we come together to create solutions and it's important that we can all come to the table and work together effectively. Building meaningful relationships that last is fundamental to accomplishing [solutions].

"Another important skill is to be able to think and act strategically as the healthcare landscape changes … Changes will be thrust upon us, whether we are ready for them or not and we must understand the implications and be prepared to meet them head on and be prepared to position ourselves accordingly. An additional piece of being prepared is having the right resources available to help us gather and analyze our data in a timely, meaningful manner because we base important decisions [off this data]. This not only encompasses partnering with the right vendor, but also having talented staff that can both gather the data in a meaningful way as well as provide analysis."

Michael McAnder, CFO of Piedmont Healthcare (Atlanta): "You've got to be flexible, mostly because of all the different policies and mandates we have to live within. It's such a highly regulated industry and it's very complex. I think what's essential is driving business, driving the bottom-line operating margin and continuing to have the organization grow.

"You also have to be able to make decisions with incomplete information. You don't always have all of the information when you make recommendations, which is somewhat difficult for traditional bean counters due to their conservative nature. I happen to feel like I'm an entrepreneur who happens to be in the CFO role.

"I don't look at things as black and white. If somebody is willing to do a business plan, I'll review it. If I agree with the assumptions, I'm supportive of proceeding, even if it puts the organization at some risk. But, to me, that's how you continue to grow and learn as a team."

Jennifer Alvey, senior vice president and CFO of Indiana University Health (Indianapolis): "A health system CFO today still must rely on traditional financial and business acumen to manage traditional financial operations; however, effectively managing through the changing healthcare landscape requires creativity, an appreciation for the needs and desires of both patients and providers, and the ability to be thoughtful, collaborative and agile."

Jeff Daneff, CFO of Porter Health Care System (Valparaiso, Ind.): "I think it's the ability to make justifiable decisions promptly. The pace of healthcare right now is such that you don't necessarily need to be first to market with a new idea, but you need to be able to make quick decisions, particularly if the data is there."




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