The skills hospital CFOs need to thrive, according to Providence CFO Greg Hoffman

Greg Hoffman serves as the CFO of Providence, a 52-hospital system with more than $25 billion in annual revenue. 

Mr. Hoffman became permanent finance chief of Renton, Wash.-based system in January after serving on an interim basis for several months. Before taking on the top finance role, Mr. Hoffman served as Providence's chief transformation officer. 

Here, Mr. Hoffman discusses what he thinks is the most pressing issue for hospital CFOs amid the latest COVID-19 surge, the skills finance chiefs need to succeed in today's healthcare landscape and Providence's short- and long-term financial priorities. 

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

Question: What is the most pressing issue for hospital CFOs amid the latest COVID-19 surge?  

Greg Hoffman: Similar to the beginning of the surge, it is financial liquidity and stabilization. Our COVID-19 losses were greater than reimbursement from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other programs entering into the delta surge. The current surge and labor shortage is exacerbating the situation. Our management team is actively managing all of these issues to ensure we have the resources available to not only address the spikes in COVID-19 cases, but continue to serve our communities for a wide variety of healthcare needs.

Q: What are Providence's top financial priorities for 2022? 

GH: We are looking at it both in the short-term and long-term. In the short-term, ensuring that we remain resilient to handle any future complications, whether future variants or other macroeconomic factors. At the same time, ensuring we maintain the wellbeing for our caregivers while also addressing many health needs in our communities that have accumulated or been deferred while addressing surges. In the long run, it is continuing to lay the roadmap for our Destination Health 2025 strategy by smartly investing in growth, modernization and diversification.

 Q: What skills are essential for hospital and health system CFOs to thrive in today's healthcare landscape? 

GH: Starting with the context of the current landscape, we were undergoing significant clinical, technical and economic transformation already as an industry before COVID-19. The pandemic has increased the speed of those trends and the imperative to respond. Thus, resource allocation is going to become even more important as we balance the investments for our communities today and for the future. This will place a premium on combined core hard and soft skills. Core finance and valuation skills remain important. However, where investments are made, where value is realized and where risk occurs is changing significantly, including the timing. Past paradigms also will change. Thus, decision-making skills and frameworks will be even more important for facilitating management resource allocation. Collaboration and influence skills also are essential. In a rapidly changing environment, collaboration is even more important to draw in the best ideas from a diverse set of thoughts. A CFO that collaborates well can then provide influence by coupling the best strategic thinking from management with finance and decision-making frameworks to guide investment. 

Q: What capital projects does Providence have in the works? 

GH: Our capital program contemplates several pillars on behalf of our mission. First, continued investment in best-in-class equipment and facilities for our patients and caregivers. Second, continued modernization of our processes and technology to ease the way for our patients and caregivers. And, lastly, investing in growth and diversification across our multiple lines of business in the care continuum and our diversified businesses like Tegria (a technology service firm) and Ayin (a population health company).

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