Cooper CFO's 'thoughtful', 'structured' approach to post-pandemic growth

Camden, N.J.-based Cooper University Health Care, a 137-year-old health system, received its highest ever credit rating from Fitch this month and has ambitious plans to continue to grow post-pandemic.

The key to its strategic growth is down to a "thoughtful and structured approach," Brian Reilly, who has been CFO of Cooper since 2017, told Becker's

Cooper's revenue improvement initiatives have proven successful over the last couple of years at a time when hospitals and health systems had to contend with the rising costs of labor, supplies and drugs, with payer reimbursements also not keeping up with the rate of inflation.

"The first hurdle was to recapture all of the pent-up patient demand, which we did. Second was focus on driving new growth in all of our key service lines, both organically and through our strategic partnerships, including MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper as well as other health systems across South Jersey," Mr. Reilly said. 

Over the next few years, Cooper's growth will be centered around these partnerships as well as adding Cape Regional Health System in Cape May, N.J., and increasing its overall clinical and ambulatory footprint in southern New Jersey.

Cooper and Cape May signed a definitive agreement to merge in April. If the deal is approved, the combined system would have revenue exceeding $2.2 billion a year. It would include two hospitals, more than 10,000 employees and 130 ambulatory locations.

"Cooper is also focused on providing the highest quality of care by making the ongoing investments in our people, talent, infrastructure and innovation," Mr. Reilly said. "We are working on recruiting and retaining the highest talent from high-end, subspecialty care, to the bedside, and across the organization."

The planned merger with Cape May would unlock significant growth opportunities — particularly in the outpatient market — as healthcare continues its shift away from inpatient settings.

"CFO's need to be adaptable to a continually changing landscape. The key is to understand [your] business," Mr. Reilly said. "Finance leaders need to capitalize on every opportunity to be innovative, to be open to new business models, and to concepts and partnerships that drive incremental revenue and margin while reducing cost."

Cooper's liquidity position has nearly doubled over the last five years due to solid operating performance and Fitch expects it to continue to generate strong ongoing cash flow over the next five years, even with a projected increase in capital expenditures.

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