Texas Health Resources CFO finds focus as the finance chief role blurs

Texas Health Resources, a nonprofit, faith-based system, comprises 27 hospitals, more than 80 outpatient facilities, a jointly owned health plan and more than 250 clinics and physicians' offices. In 2020, Executive Vice President and CFO Rick McWhorter will help prepare the system for new reporting requirements and make price transparency one of his top priorities.

Mr. McWhorter has held numerous leadership positions at Arlington-based Texas Health since joining the system in 1990. The healthcare industry has changed over the past 30 years, and Mr. McWhorter's role has evolved along with it. Beyond all the duties of a traditional CFO, Mr. McWhorter plays a key role in shaping Texas Health's strategy and helps drive performance across areas that go far beyond traditional finance or accounting.   

Here, Mr. McWhorter shares his top priorities for the year ahead, discusses the evolving CFO role and shares what he sees as the most exciting opportunity in healthcare right now.

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

Question: What are a few of your top priorities for the year ahead at Texas Health Resources?

Rick McWhorter:  During 2019, Texas Health implemented two significant financial IT systems — Epic billing and collections and Oracle/PeopleSoft. In 2020, we will focus on stabilizing work processes and reporting, as well as optimizing the opportunities that new systems will provide the system. During 2020, we will spend considerable time and effort working on pricing transparency and preparing our system for any new federal and state reporting requirements, as well as other regulations, such as surprise billing legislation.

Q: You joined Texas Health in 1990 and have served in several leadership roles. Is there any piece of advice you would go back and give yourself on day one? 

RM: At the time I started in healthcare the revolution of computers and information technology was beginning. We were starting to use Lotus 123, Harvard Graphics, and WordPerfect. We thought we had hit the big time when Lotus introduced WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). Most of my knowledge has been focused around financial systems. All to say, in hindsight, I should have recognized the speed at which technology would change and specifically dedicated time — weekly or monthly — to learn and develop technological skills beyond financial systems. In healthcare, data and analytics, as well as artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, are evolving quickly, and I'm running to keep up.

Q: How do you think the CFO role will evolve over the next decade?

RM: We have all heard CFOs across the country talk about being more strategic and a thought partner for the health systems they guide financially. In addition, we know the CFO will continue to lead initiatives around cost controls and new payment systems, as well as continued management of new government regulations and pressures. I agree with all of these items as well. However, I also believe the CFO of the future will need to look several years out and take a role in leading transformation by developing processes and systems that will drive affordability for consumers, focusing on the total cost of care for consumers, which include individuals, employers and payers. This will require the evolution, execution and optimization of IT systems, data and analytics, and attracting, in many cases, a different set of skills for their finance teams. For most health systems, healthcare transformation will go beyond the traditional walls of the hospital and into new venues of care and well-being products. The CFO of the future will need to expand their skills to respond to new venues and products and services, including the retail market, something many of us old-timers haven't seen or done. Finally, the CFO will need to be an effective change leader for their organizations.

Q: What do you see as the most exciting opportunity in healthcare right now?

RM: Technological innovation is the most exciting opportunity in finance and throughout health systems. With the pace at which technology is changing, implementing AI and RPA will transform our finance departments, as well as many other departments, such as HR and supply chain. As we are implementing new financial systems, we are finding opportunities to optimize manual work processes, which will reduce cost and hopefully improve employee satisfaction. The extent to which technology innovation will change the delivery of healthcare is yet to be discovered, and being a part of the change is exciting.




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