Getting comfortable being uncomfortable: Q&A with UAB Hospital CFO Mary Beth Briscoe

Mary Beth Briscoe understands the challenges hospital and health system CFOs face today, including the changing reimbursement and regulatory landscape.

Ms. Briscoe joined University of Alabama at Birmingham Medicine in 2002 and serves as CFO of 1,157-bed UAB Hospital, the largest academic medical center in Alabama and one of the largest academic medical centers in the nation. She is also CFO of UAB Medicine clinical operations.

Prior to joining UAB Medicine, Ms. Briscoe was CFO of Eastern Health System in Birmingham.

Becker's Hospital Review recently had the opportunity to catch up with Ms. Briscoe and get her insight on a number of issues, including how to run a hospital's finance team. Briscoe

Question: What skills are essential for a health system CFO in today's healthcare climate beyond traditional financial and business acumen?

Mary Beth Briscoe: As our industry continues to shift into an environment predicated on value and patient experience across the continuum of care, the role of the CFO is broadened on many fronts. A CFO should be able to converse in clinical terms and link clinical care delivery to operational and financial initiatives to foster credibility within the physician community. CFOs should also possess a multitude of "softer" skills including mentorship, communication, collaboration, fostering a sense of urgency and translating the effects of clinical outcomes on financial and strategic results. During these times of transition and change, the CFO has to become "comfortable" being "uncomfortable" and challenge the organization to take measureable risks.

Q: What is the greatest challenge facing hospital and health system CFOs today?

MBB: One of the biggest challenges facing today's CFO is prioritization and coordination of organizational prospective and reactive responses to the environment.  The linkage of quality, safety, efficiency and rapidly changing reimbursement and regulatory landscape has produced significant pressures on already strained resources. The challenge of the CFO is to collaborate with all levels of leadership to prioritize the efforts of the organization. What is more valuable to the organization: Incentives associated with value-based purchasing? Reduction of clinical variation?  Addressing Medicare bundled payments? Managing long range capital needs? Reducing readmissions and hospital acquired conditions to boost quality outcome indicators? Engaging the patient community to manage market shifts driven by consumerism? The answer is….these and many more are all important! Prioritization, communication and coordination of the strategic initiatives is key to success.

Q: What is it like being the CFO of one of the largest hospitals in the nation and the largest academic medical center in Alabama?

MBB: Being part of the senior leadership team of UAB Medicine has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. We have the privilege of serving some of the most complex patients in the country, and I am humbled on a daily basis by the compassion and call to care demonstrated by our physicians, nursing staff and other support staff. Our academic mission and link to the school of medicine and school of health professions gives us the opportunity to influence and train future physician and administrative leaders. UAB Medicine is also committed providing cutting edge research and the pursuit of knowledge that will contribute to the clinical treatments and cures of tomorrow.

Professionally, the challenges and growth opportunities I have experienced being a part of a large academic organization could not have been matched in any other setting. Our organization is on the forefront of change, and we are committed to leading our industry into the 21st century.

Q: In the last year, what has been your greatest accomplishment as CFO?

MBB: During 2015, UAB Medicine continued taking significant steps aligning our clinical and operational stakeholders to improve coordination of care, reduce clinical practice variation and document appropriate patient condition. Unprecedented collaboration between the CMO, Provider Integration Network leadership and myself only served to illuminate how interrelated these disciplines are in order to be successful in the "value-based" environment. Our team developed a vision and action plan designed to achieve world-class patient quality and satisfaction in a manner that continues to positively influence financial viability.

As a result of this realignment, UAB Medicine developed a strategy and overarching organizational initiative, Foundation For the Future, which is focused on improvements and redesign of our clinical care pathways, clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction and improved efficiency. Through the tireless efforts of our physicians, leadership and staff, outcomes of care are improving and operational processes are becoming more efficient.

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