Healthcare CFOs are making major financial changes: 3 survey insights to know

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After the COVID-19 pandemic created widespread financial problems for healthcare organizations, many healthcare CFOs are making some changes in their strategies, a Nov. 10 survey by Deloitte Center for Health Solutions found.

The survey includes CFOs and other finance leaders from 60 healthcare organizations, as well as interviews with CFOs from 12 health systems and health plans. Deloitte did a previous survey on the topic in 2020.

Three things to know from the survey:

1. Leaders are uncertain what finances will look like in the future. Finance leaders expect slightly higher margins this year compared to 2020 because of some nonemergency procedures returning and patients being less worried about coming in. But volumes still aren't where they were before the pandemic, and some are concerned virtual care will make profits lower. Additionally, many healthcare organizations are experiencing higher costs, such as in compensation and supply chain issues.

When it comes to health plans, CFOs expect bottom line headwinds because of lower premium increases. They also expect more demand for elective procedures and rebate pressures.

2. Technology investments are a top priority. In 2020, healthcare organizations were pausing capital investments because of financial problems. This year, healthcare finance leaders are investing more so they can expand, be more cost-efficient and change care models. Technology is a top investment opportunity for many finance leaders, so healthcare organizations can provide care in alternative ways, like telehealth, remote monitoring and "hospital at home." Technology investments also help with business transformations — like mergers and acquisitions — and supply chain issues.

3. Strategic responsibilities are changing for CFOs. Seventy-seven percent of finance leaders said in the survey that they are transitioning from the traditional finance format to partner with other executives on decision-making, rather than being viewed as the "final barrier" for a plan to overcome. They plan to do this by making the function of their role "agile," "tech-enabled" and "data-centric." However, several said they are not prepared to meet all three of these focus areas because of uncertainty in financial planning in 2021.


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