5 hospital CFOs share best practices for running a finance team

Hospital and health system CFOs serve an important role in their organizations, and their influence is far-reaching as they are often second in command to the CEO. With so much on their plates, hospital and health system finance chiefs rely on their teams for support.

Financial leaders from hospitals and health systems across the nation shared the following best practices for running a finance team with Becker's Hospital Review.

Chris Bergman, CFO, The Christ Hospital (Cincinnati): "First is identifying the right people. You've got to have good technical skills. I've got two great folks right under me who do a lot of our finance. They know how to translate what they're hearing into technical finance pieces. We can do a better job technically if we are talking to our operating folks. I need my team members to engage outside the finance world. We close really fast — in four business days — with a full set of reports. It's the routine practice of closing financials and make it short, then spend more time with analyses and value-based part of your business, so decisions can be made in a timely manner."

Mike Browder, executive vice president and CFO, RegionalCare Hospital (Brentwood, Tenn.): "For me it's really rooting out variability within the finance function between facilities. Even while our company's intentionally decentralized operating environment allows for a lot of day-to-day latitude for hospital senior execs to execute their strategies, in finance we want each facility to run things the same way. For example, while one market may differ from another in the vendor it uses for EBO, primary and secondary collectors, etc., we want the process and data flow to be the same — accounts are turned over the same time, returned on the same schedule, documented the same to support Medicare bad debt qualification, etc. As it relates to this objective, my idea of success is if one of our hospital CFOs moves to a sister facility, they know exactly how to manage their team from day one."

Jeff Taylor, senior vice president and CFO, St. Luke's Health System (Boise, Idaho): "I think it amounts to instilling a culture of discipline in all that we do, whether that's timely reporting of information, providing operational leaders and physicians with information upon which they can act, or hiring the right people. By that, I mean those who have the ability to be both financial leaders and operational partners.

We also must continue to evolve our financial and reporting systems to accommodate our current environment. Key measures that have historically related to a volume-based revenue system will be less relevant in a value-based environment, where cost and utilization metrics at a population level will become more important.

It's also important that we look outside our industry for management capabilities. As provider systems look to assume greater financial and performance risk associated with managing the total cost for defined populations, competencies found in the payer market are increasingly important.

And revenue cycle competencies targeted at improving overall financial and collection rates will become increasingly important as more and more of the financial burden is borne by the patient.

We've looked outside our industry for these competencies, and we're also implementing tools that have traditionally been used in these sectors to monitor and improve our operational performance.

Talana Bell, CFO, Flowers Hospital (Dothan, Ala.): "First, surround yourself with excellent people who share the same passion you have for high quality. This not only applies to the financial team, but the administrative "strategy" team. The CEO, CFO, CNO, COO, etc., should all be on the same page and working toward the same goals of providing the highest quality of care to our patients. Know your most profitable service lines and how you can grow them. Work with your team to develop strategies to grow the business and find other profitable lines that serve your market. Track the metrics that are important to you and your market and make those known to those responsible for those metrics."    

Tim Olson, CFO, ThedaCare (Appleton, Wis.): "I would say our top three include:

1. Forward thinking predictive analytics

2. Thinking beyond finance to help the organization think about all of the key success objectives together. At ThedaCare, this includes Safety, Quality, Customer, People and Financial Stewardship.

3. Understanding the work we produce and the true value it brings to the end user. When we don't see the value in the product/request, the expectation is that we question the work with the end user to understand the need and value."

More articles on healthcare finance:

Louisiana hospital to close this month, aims to reopen in 2016
New data shows experts were wrong about where healthcare costs less
Georgia hospital to reopen after securing last-minute buyer

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