Care New England targets RCM in new cost-cutting program

Like so many nonprofit hospitals and health systems across the country, Providence, R.I.-based Care New England has been facing multiple financial challenges that require new solutions.

The system, which operates three hospitals as well as behavioral health and home health services, will fully implement a new cost-cutting program systemwide April 1, executives said in an investor call March 15, to try and resolve some of those many challenges.

"We have been hovering around 43 days of cash on hand for far too long, and we want to improve our debt service coverage," CFO Todd Conklin said. "Suffice to say we obsess about those two things monthly."

While bedside inpatient care will not be affected, areas such as revenue cycle management where Care New England is "weaker" are among the targets to improve efficiencies, Mr. Conklin said.

The focus now for Care New England's new leadership — Mr. Conklin joined Feb. 13 while CEO Michael Wagner, MD, started Dec. 1, 2022 — is to emerge with greater focus after a very difficult period and inch toward profitability, Dr. Wagner said.

"There was an incredibly strong team before us that has allowed us to hit the ground running," he said. "We want to go from a crisis-driven environment to one of focus, one of steady at the helm, and move toward this so that we can ensure long-term profitability. There are early signs of moving the needle to some degree of normalcy, and we are very optimistic about where we are going long term."

Care New England and Providence-based Lifespan withdrew a merger application in February 2022 after the Federal Trade Commission filed suit to block the proposed deal.

Both systems have new leadership, as does nearby Brown University, and all three organizations continue to collaborate significantly in areas of health research, Dr. Wagner said.

"We have multiple collaborations already; there are deep interconnections between our two organizations," Dr. Wagner said of existing partnerships between Care New England and Lifespan. As for the collaboration with Lifespan and Brown, there is a "deep bench of capabilities," he added.

"There is new leadership and it is better to see how we can collaborate," he said. "Our job at Care New England is to create a platform of profitability and then we can work out strategic steps from there."

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