Northwell CFO Michele Cusack's key criteria for evaluating partnerships

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Michele Cusack serves as senior vice president and CFO of Northwell Health, a 23-hospital system with $13.4 billion in annual revenue.

In her current role at the New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based system, which she began in November 2017, Ms. Cusack is responsible for financial reporting, financial planning, cash management, budgeting, treasury services, tax management and more. She also has administrative responsibilities on the Northwell Board of Trustees' finance and audit committees.

Prior to her appointment to finance chief, Ms. Cusack was Northwell Health's deputy CFO.

Here, Ms. Cusack answers questions about Northwell's top financial priorities, the most pressing issue health system CFOs are facing and how to evaluate potential partners.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for style. 

Question: What is the most pressing issue hospital CFOs are facing right now?

Michele Cusack: Even before COVID-19, healthcare demand was growing, and there was great competition for talent. That's become even more pronounced after the pandemic. The labor shortage is a real challenge, and we continue to evolve our strategies to mitigate the time to find and onboard talent successfully. 

Another challenge for CFOs across every industry is managing supply chain resiliency and inflationary trends.

Q: What are some of Northwell's top financial priorities for 2022?

MC: We are looking to take advantage of what has become the new normal. That includes retaining our organizational flexibility seen during the peak of the pandemic. This includes having staff be able to work remotely when possible. This sort of balance plays a role in our ability to attract and retain talent.

Q: Based on your experience, what is the best way hospital and health system CFOs can evaluate organizations that contact them with interest to partner, affiliate or merge?

MC: The organizations need to present how they can be accretive to the organization — and that's not just from a financial perspective. We need to feel comfortable with our potential partners and assess if there is a cultural fit. The organizations also need to show how they can fill a gap in each other's portfolio, either by market or business segment while delivering the financial results necessary to not be dilutive. 

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

MC: Northwell has maintained a high-performing and engaged finance team, focused on the organizational recovery despite being virtual for over a year. The healthcare industry has faced an unimaginable challenge. 

Q: What advice would you share with other hospital and health system CFOs, and why?

MC: It's important to maintain the partnership with your C-suite cohorts. This way the system is able to deliver on the organization's strategy by focusing on the financial levers within the organization.

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