Phoenix Children's is at an exciting inflection point, CFO says

Kari Cornicelli began serving as vice president and CFO of Phoenix Children's Hospital in June, and she brought more than three decades of healthcare finance experience to her new role.

Prior to joining Phoenix Children's, Ms. Cornicelli had a 22-year career at San Diego-based Sharp Healthcare. She most recently served as vice president and CFO of the Sharp Metropolitan Medical Campus, a $1.3 billion enterprise.

Ms. Cornicelli told Becker's Hospital Review she's excited about her new role. She shared her top priorities for her first year on the job, discussed a few of the top challenges facing hospital CFOs and offered some advice for her peers.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What has you most excited about your new role as CFO of Phoenix Children's?

Kari Cornicelli: During the interview process, I was very impressed with executive team and their strategic focus to create Arizona's premier pediatric system. Phoenix Children's is at an inflection point where it is transitioning from being a hospital to a fully integrated delivery system of sites and services. It is a time of incredible growth and change. I am most excited about the market growth opportunities and having the chance to bring my experience as a leader in health systems to help craft the next generation of Phoenix Children's success.

Q: What are a few of your top priorities for your first year at Phoenix Children's?

KC: Besides learning the unique nuances related to pediatric care, my top priorities are to provide value to the organization through developing and implementing revenue and growth strategies, as well as integrating the current strategic planning process into a robust long range financial plan. I'm looking forward to working with the leaders within the finance division to create a data driven organization and to drive automation of all processes and systems to improve timely financial planning and reporting to support the future growth of the organization.

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

KC: Healthcare CFOs face many challenges, starting with declining net revenues and increasing operating expenses. A CFO must be focused on sustaining the financial viability of the organization to ensure access to high quality care for its patient population. This can be achieved through an integrated and productive partnership between finance and operations to achieve the greatest growth and strategy outcomes. The CFO should be focused on ensuring that a data driven culture supports decision-making, provides a level of flexibility, and minimizes organizational risk.

Another challenge for today's CFO is talent management. Our industry has changed significantly due to AI and robotic process automation. We need to ensure that our teams have the dynamic skill sets needed to manage digital intelligence to meet the organizational needs.

Q: If you could pass along a piece of advice to other hospital CFOs, what would it be?

KC: My advice is simple … find a position and team that you enjoy working with; leverage your skills and talents to make a difference. Enjoy the job and enjoy the journey. This is a great industry to be a part of and the role of a CFO is essential to every organization's success.

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