Providence CFO Greg Hoffman's 2021 focuses for spending, investments

Greg Hoffman took over as interim CFO of Renton, Wash.-based Providence health system in August and  was named to the position permanently in January.  

He told Becker's Hospital Review he's humbled to be CFO because of the legacy of Providence and the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. 

"To be here at this point in time and continue to carry the mission forward is quite humbling in one regard. Having come from other industries, I've taken great pleasure in being able to apply the skill sets from there to this field on behalf of this mission. Our caregivers are heroic, and it's an honor to be here," he said.

Before becoming CFO, Mr. Hoffman was chief transformation officer of Providence, a health system with 51 hospitals in seven states. He shared his experiences during the pandemic, discussed a few of the steps he has taken to ensure the health system's financial sustainability and offered advice for peers.

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

Question: What has it been like serving as a CFO during the pandemic? 

Greg Hoffman: It's been interesting and rewarding as well. I've been humbled by all the heroic efforts, that our caregivers have risen to the occasion and addressed the pandemic in our communities. It's been interesting in the sense of having to pivot and be focused on allocating resources in the near term. And being able to do that and coordinate across a large system, we've had some significant advantages in that a lot of what we've done in our modernization, what we call Health 2.0, really provided the platform for this coordination throughout the main entity.

Q: What steps have you taken to ensure financial sustainability?

GH: First and foremost, we wanted to ensure we had the necessary resources to care for our patients and our communities and our caregivers. Ensure we had the adequate personal protective equipment; ensure we had the bed space and the capacity. So, we steered all our efforts and resources to ensuring that. We also wanted to keep our financial foundation and balance sheets strong. So essentially, we pulled back on a lot of discretionary spend. With lockdown we cut down on travel, but discretionary projects as well — stuff that didn't need to be done now to ensure we were able to maintain our stability and balance in our cash flow. 

Q: Now that the vaccine rollout is underway, what does that look like at Providence? 

GH: I would applaud our clinical teams. They met daily when the pandemic first started, and now they meet two to three times a week to navigate and steer how we've managed through the pandemic in getting resources to the right places. Amy Compton-Phillips, MD, president of clinical care, likes to say that planning is the anecdote for panic. We got out ahead early in our vaccination planning efforts so that we could vaccinate our caregivers and patients accordingly by building digital tools, so we could validate and verify who is eligible and quickly set up a road map and planning to vaccinate a lot of our caregivers. We started in December vaccinating our caregivers and now tens of thousands of caregivers have been vaccinated.

Q: What is your strategy in terms of expenditures and investments in 2021? 

GH: First and foremost is anything COVID-related, whether it's a surge or whether its vaccination efforts or whether it's protecting our caregivers. Second is ensuring we continue to invest, whether it's capital or other expenditures, to ensure our patients experience the best care and our caregivers have the best equipment to take care of our patients. Third is continuing our agenda, what we call accelerating the Health 2.0, which is a lot about modernizing our infrastructure. So, continuing to invest in the technology and the processes to modernize our infrastructure and give us long-run benefits and diversify our revenues. For example, in 2022 we will have Epic installed across our hospitals. We will also in 2022 be on a single solution for enterprise resource planning, so our vendor systems, our caregiver systems, payroll and our financial systems will all be on a common single solution. 

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

GH: We've been very focused. Healthcare right now is going through significant transformation. The innovation that's occurring and all the different pieces of the value chain, the economics — particularly across a multilateral business care delivery, how value's generated and delivered and how we care for patients — is changing rapidly. We have these big shifts from inpatient to outpatient. We have these big shifts to virtual, so keeping a pulse in terms of understanding how value's being generated, how you're going to measure that value and how you're going to manage it. And then setting up the processes and systems to allocate resources to their highest and best use. 


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