What 7 CFOs told Becker's this year

As hospitals and health systems continue to struggle with challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic and workforce shortages, several shared with Becker's tips, trends they're following, their top priorities and more.

1. Lisa Goodlett, CFO of MUSC Health (Charleston, S.C.), on the trends she is following most closely in healthcare today: Right now, I'm giving a lot of attention to inflation. Obviously, the news today with the activities between Russia and Ukraine are disappointing, and that's going to put more stress on our resources. Not only the supply chain, but just coming out of the impacts of COVID, so really economic and inflationary pressures. We will have to find ways to replenish all the COVID funds that have flown through the federal and state level. So there are going to be challenges when our reimbursement stream has really been somewhat steady over the past eight or 10 years. … No. 2 on our list is really work fatigue.

2. James Dietsche, executive vice president and CFO of Bellin Health (Green Bay, Wis.), on trends and issues he is following: This has definitely changed within one year. So we still have our eye on the ball up from a long-term basis really in care transformation. So that doesn't change. … We are trained to transform our organization away from obviously that inpatient, that hospital-centric care to ambulatory care and delivering care at a more, hopefully, patient-centered [model] and an effective way from a satisfaction perspective, kind of throughout our broad geography. 

So those things for us really mean continued investments in care transformation. Obviously virtual care is big for us. We continue to expand through primary care and specialty care providers, our ability to connect with people where they reside. 

3. Greg Hoffman, CFO of Providence (Renton, Wash.), on the top priorities consuming his time: No. 1 is workforce. It's not only the challenges of the current shortages as we navigate yet another surge and wave in the pandemic — but most importantly, it's just ensuring we're taking care of the well-being of our caregivers. I mean, that's top of mind for us. It is a very stressful time. There's a lot of burnout.

4. Jennifer Alvey, CFO of Indianapolis-based Indiana University Health, on managing profit and staffing while enacting a price freeze: I'd like to explain what our pricing care affordability strategy actually is. It's been written many different ways in the press, and what it really is, is a multiyear plan that when you account for all the payers and services, it will essentially hold our revenue that we receive from price increases flat year over year. And so in that same time period, it'll bring more than a billion in savings for healthcare consumers after you factor in inflation. And we've committed to getting our commercial prices to national parity by the end of 2025. So kind of to your point about how can we do that while trying to be optimally staffed? We're creating an internal constraint on our system to have to get more efficient because we are holding that flat. And boy, is that a lot harder to accomplish in the current workforce environment.

So it's a great question. We actually just posted our public filing for last year, and our labor went up three times its normal amount last year. And we expect similar pressures this year, and adequate staffing will be a higher expense for us. But it really can assist our price affordability plan by allowing us to reduce the high cost of traveling nurses, catching up on carrying out thousands of elective surgeries and procedures that were postponed during the pandemic. 

5. John Kurvink, vice president, performance and financial strategy, CFO and CIO of Grey Bruce Health Services (Southampton, Ontario), on advice for emerging healthcare leaders: Working through the last two years of the pandemic is hopefully a once in a career experience and one to tell your grandchildren about. Emerging leaders should take the time to appreciate the lessons learned and incorporate them into their leadership practice going forward. As they say, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and I believe the last 24 months will forge a generation of emerging leaders who will work to make a health system resilient, nimble and patient-centric in the years to come. It will no longer be business as usual, and our emerging leaders need to embrace that reality. 

6. Bashar Naser, CFO and COO of Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center (Alamogordo, N.M.) on top priorities for 2022: As we are recovering from the pandemic, our focus is going to be on protecting our current workforce and become successful in hiring more nurses. Recover volumes that were deferred for lack of beds and catch up with many delayed surgeries and perform more preventing testing as COVID positive rates have come down. Continue to prevent outmigration and provide all needed specialty coverage in our market.

7. Jerry Pickett, CFO of Burke Medical Center (Waynesboro, Ga.) and Bosque County (Texas) Hospital District, on what he would do differently if he got a mulligan back to January 2020: If I could call a mulligan for the last two years, I would better prepare for all staff whose duties do not require direct patient care to have the ability to work remotely. We are located in a rural area in central Texas, so not all of our staff have broadband available. When the pandemic became an issue in March 2020, we moved all of our patient accounting, health information management and IT staff out of the hospital. Even though we were able to set up shop in our fitness center, we still were unable to keep everyone working. Those who could not work in the fitness center or from home were paid, but we did lose some ground on cash flows.

 

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