IU Health CFO Jennifer Alvey: Health system finance chiefs must be 'thoughtful, collaborative and agile'

Indianapolis-based Indiana University Health Senior Vice President and CFO Jennifer Alvey is a seasoned finance executive who understands the challenges the industry is facing.

Ms. Alvey joined IU Health, a 15-hospital, nonprofit system, in January 2011 and served as treasurer and vice president of revenue cycle services before being promoted to her current position. Prior to coming to IU Health, Ms. Alvey spent five years with the Indiana Finance Authority, where she worked her way up to public finance director.

Here, Ms. Alvey discusses the essential skills a health system CFO needs today, the challenges facing the industry and how she stays excited about work each day.

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

Jennifer Alvey: A health system CFO today still must rely on traditional financial and business acumen to manage traditional financial operations; however, effectively managing through the changing healthcare landscape requires creativity, an appreciation for the needs and desires of both patients and providers, and the ability to be thoughtful, collaborative and agile.

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

JA: The lack of stability in healthcare continues to be our greatest challenge. The constant debate surrounding healthcare creates insecurity for our patients and makes it more difficult for us to develop long-range plans. In this environment, it would be easy to say "no" rather than take risks. It is increasingly important to get creative and challenge operational and financial teams to figure out how to fund and support needs with the resources we have. As a CFO, I look to provide creative options to ensure that we can continue to provide our patients with the highest quality care in the most efficient way.

Q: As the healthcare industry shifts to value-based systems of pay, what is the biggest challenge your system is facing? What strategies are you employing to meet this challenge?

JA: The shift to value-based pay requires that we choose to move from fee-for-service care delivery toward a population health model with the right velocity at the right time. It's hard to know what "right" is with so much volatility due to reimbursement changes from government mandates and consumer pressure from payers and patients. To prepare for this large-scale change, we are highly focused on attracting and retaining top talent to ensure we have an engaged and agile team capable of successfully transitioning to this model and deploying strategies that win in both systems. Our team members, from direct clinical care to financial areas, are mission-driven to deliver on our No. 1 priority — providing the highest quality of care for our patients — and are prepared to adapt to changes within our industry to do so.  

Q: In the face of so many challenges from seemingly all corners of the industry, what keeps you excited and motivated to come to work each day? How do you replenish your energy and enthusiasm outside of work? 

JA: I am energized each day by working alongside a highly skilled team of compassionate and dedicated individuals who inspire and challenge me because of their commitment to serving our patients. I reconnect by volunteering in patient-facing spaces, sometimes just helping to walk patients and visitors around the hospitals to their destination. I also enjoy mentoring up-and-coming leaders because their enthusiasm and progress are so energizing. Lastly, spending time with my husband and our children rejuvenates me. It's great to have young ones at home to keep you laughing.

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