AI, insurance reform, rising interest rates: What's on the mind of a Wyoming health system CFO

Gillette, Wyo.-based Campbell County Health recently named Adam Popp as its new CFO. Mr. Popp joins the system from his previous CFO role at Watertown, S.D.-based Prairie Lakes Healthcare System. 

Becker's reached out to Mr. Popp to learn more about his new position and gain his perspectives on the financial state of the healthcare industry.

Question: What are your priorities in the first year of your new role?

Adam Popp: First and foremost, getting to know the team at Campbell County Health and recognizing opportunities for the team to get to know me as well. This encompasses everyone from staff up through the board level.

Relationship building is a critical component of trust. Through trust, we can build customer loyalty and cooperation within our teams. 

CCH has a June fiscal year-end, so the budget cycle will be in full swing soon. CCH is implementing several initiatives relative to the revenue cycle, and I'm excited to join this organization at such a crucial time.

Q: What unique financial challenges do rural health systems face?

AP: Access to appropriate levels of care is always a challenge in rural healthcare settings. Adequate provider coverage can be challenging to maintain, and much-needed services such as behavioral health are often unavailable. COVID-19 exacerbated the challenges for rural healthcare. Staffing issues, supply issues, increasing labor costs, and "COVID fatigue" have all presented unique challenges.

Typically, rural settings have an overreliance on government payers resulting from an older resident population. The traditional service delivery and revenue capture models need to be reconsidered for rural healthcare. Insurance reform makes much more sense than the oft-cited healthcare reform.

Q: What excites you about the future of healthcare?

AP: The possibilities resulting from artificial intelligence are astounding. As a data analyst, it is amazing to consider AI's speed and accuracy capabilities. AI's ability to process such large data sets and then identify high-risk patients leading, in turn, to truly individualized care plans is exciting. AI should lend itself to mitigating risk, which is essential for the provider and the patient.

Q: What attracted you to accept the CFO role at a nonprofit system?

AP: I have worked most of my career in nonprofit settings. Legally, nonprofit hospitals are required to provide care regardless of the patient's ability to pay. I believe the missions and visions of nonprofits are to become more closely aligned with the patient's needs. I also like that many nonprofit organizations adopt a servant leadership mentality relative to service and care delivery. However, the nonprofit hospital must remain financially sustainable to ensure its ability to continue caring for future patients.

Q: How are you seeing macroeconomic challenges, such as inflation, reflected in the healthcare sector?

AP: Macroeconomic challenges are impacting healthcare in a couple of different ways. In the healthcare industry, COVID-19 led us to a higher labor expense structure, coupled with increasing costs for supplies, putting severe downward pressure on profitability. 

The increasing cost of money due to rising interest rates will impact some organizations' ability to secure new funding, and current debt under a variable rate structure will cost more to repay. This instability for organizations could have damaging effects.

For the patient, geopolitical concerns, market instability and rising interest rates could lead to consumer uncertainty. Healthcare consumers often choose to postpone seeking care in times of uncertainty. Organizations may face lower-than-normal volumes as a result, compounding the pressure on profitability.

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