ChristianaCare's CFO on pouring a new financial foundation

ChristianaCare CFO Rob McMurray is focused on making sure the Wilmington, Del.-based system is standing on solid ground. 

ChristianaCare, which has over 13,000 employees, rolled out Project Bedrock last year, an initiative meant to create a new financial foundation for the system. The three-hospital system is also focused on new digital initiatives, such as virtual primary care. 

Mr. McMurray sat down with Becker's to discuss the challenges ahead and his vision for ChristianaCare's future. 

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

Question: What are your top three financial priorities for the next year, and how do those connect back to your overall mission and goals? 

Rob McMurray: When I go to our top three financial priorities for ChristianaCare over the coming year, of course, I go right to quality care and patient experience. It's so important and critical to our mission. [Secondly], our workforce to support that mission, and [third], of course, financial strength. We remain deeply committed to our mission at ChristianaCare, and we want to make sure that we're here for the long term. That means pouring a new foundation, financially, for the organization, so we're here not just in the good times but also the bad. 

Q: What's the biggest financial challenge your organization is facing? On the flip side, what's the biggest opportunity? 

RM: Like all health systems across the country, we are facing financial challenges. I am highly confident in the way we're addressing them here at ChristianaCare. Clearly, when you think about the challenges we have, you've got to think about healthcare costs — 60% of our costs are labor. 

Then there's significant other inflation, and the revenue pressures that come with that, and with a deteriorating payer mix, resulting in a greater reliance on governmental payers that don't necessarily provide payment increases that keep up with inflation like we see on the expense side. That is a significant financial challenge, and it goes back to my point of why we are building a new foundation, to ensure we will be operating in a sustainable fashion to support our mission. 

It's also why we're taking innovative approaches to address our workforce needs. It's part of our values and behaviors here at ChristianaCare. We talk about things like anticipating the needs of others, and helping with compassion and generosity. We also talk about using resources wisely and effectively, and being curious and continuously looking for ways to innovate. 

We're fortunate at ChristianaCare. I believe we are in a position of strength, and we can build some bold strategies to sustain that vision so we can further our mission. One example is looking at different venues of care. We are looking for ways to use all of our assets. We recently bought some property and land in southeastern Pennsylvania. We're looking to expand on a neighborhood hospital concept at that location. It's a community that has some unmet needs when it comes to healthcare. We look to provide value to all of our community members that we serve, and we're addressing that need in an innovative way with a neighborhood hospital concept. 

Q: You launched a virtual primary care subscription service earlier this year. How is that going, and how else are you leveraging technology to enhance patient care? 

RM: Virtual primary care is an exciting concept. It's in its early stages, and we continue to see growth in that area, and we remain excited. 

When it comes to other technology, I mentioned before how important the workforce is to us. Our caregivers are passionate people. They love taking care of patients, they love taking care of people, our community, and we are looking for ways to enable them to provide that care. 

One example is Cobots. We have recently deployed some Cobots in clinical areas of the organization. We have a Cobot that rolls certain patient care floors in our hospitals, and believe it or not, does some administrative tasks — maybe going and getting some easy supplies out of the supply room. It's really cool. Patients love it, our caregivers love it. The most important thing is that it frees up our caregivers to do what they really want to do. It's their calling to take care of people, and that is at the core of our mission. 

Q: You spoke with Becker's earlier this year about Project Bedrock. Can you provide an update on how that's going? 

RM: I'll reiterate what I said before: that we need to create the financial stability that Project Bedrock will provide, so that we will be here, and be able to deliver our strategy for the long term. The early results from Project Bedrock are positive. We've reported on that publicly. Again, going back to our values and behaviors to use resources wisely and effectively, and continually looking for ways to innovate, I expect positive results from Project Bedrock. 

Q: Given the unpredictability of events like global pandemics, what are you doing to ensure your financial resilience and sustainability for the future? 

RM: I wish I had a crystal ball, and [could] predict the future, but what I can tell you is this: given the experience we've had over the last three-plus years as an organization, and understanding the significant impact of our values and behaviors, and seeing how 14,000-plus caregivers stepped up to the plate and dealt with the unknown, dealt with adversity, and came out ahead through the pandemic — I'm confident that we have the foundation that it takes and the culture that it takes to be successful, no matter what comes our way.

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