Why Transparency Wins the Day: Insights From St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center CFO Meredith Price

Establishing a culture of transparency and accountability is often a goal for hospitals, and most companies in general, and Meredith Price has seen the benefits of that strategy firsthand.

In 2001, Ms. Price, currently CFO of St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center in Syracuse, N.Y., took her first job within the hospital industry after working with PwC for six years. She became a financial manager for Crouse Hospital, also in Syracuse, two months after it had filed for bankruptcy. "I didn't know what was going to be in store for me," she says.

The hospital barely had any days cash on hand, and the revenue cycle needed to be revamped. She worked with two others on an interim basis to help turn the distressed Crouse Hospital around, putting an emphasis on a "model of accountability" and data sharing among colleagues.

"We were getting the entire middle management teams to understand which metrics [were important] and focused on driving things forward," Ms. Price says. "This was really achieved through transparency and providing data."

Crouse Hospital got back on its feet, and it gave Ms. Price the sense her philosophy was working. She wanted to help other hospitals that faced financial difficulties and began traveling around the country as a turnaround expert of sorts.

She worked as an interim CFO of Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, Calif., DeKalb Medical in Decatur, Ga., and Christ Hospital in Jersey City, N.J. In every scenario, she says creating a clear, sensible, focused roadmap helped the hospital improve its operations. Instead of panicking about bankruptcy and what might happen if a hospital couldn't meet payroll, she collaborated with colleagues and shared financial metrics with stakeholders to give an idea of what needed to be done and how she could be held accountable.

MeredithPrice"I've been in so many distressed hospitals, and so much can be gained from accountability and transparency," Ms. Price says.

After five years of traveling and "living out of a suitcase," Ms. Price decided to tap the brakes on the hectic lifestyle. "It was very interesting work, but I was exhausted taking the red eye," Ms. Price says. She was still based in Syracuse with her husband, and coming home every other weekend took its toll.

It was then she took a job back home as director of operations for SUNY Upstate Medical University. Ms. Price, a mother of three, was instrumental when Upstate acquired 306-bed Community General Hospital, later renamed to Upstate University Hospital's Community Campus. She then became chief administrative officer of the hospital.

This August, the 431-bed St. Joseph's named Ms. Price CFO. At Upstate, she was involved with the operations side, although a bulk of her experience was in hospital finance. She says she "really enjoyed it, but I thought the opportunity for me was better in finance."

Now a couple months into her role at St. Joseph's, she says she's excited to be part of a hospital, and industry, involved in such a massive paradigm shift.

"In healthcare, you see so much of backlash of changes occurring and not really thinking ahead of where you need to be three to five years from now," Ms. Price says. "This organization is very forward-thinking, and it stems from the wonderful leadership here."

Ms. Price believes her previous experience — centered on fiscal responsibility, transparency and accountability — will help her succeed as St. Joseph's shifts its focus to accountable care and population health.

"That's one of the things I found so exciting about St. Joseph's — they are thinking that foresight will have to continue to make the organization successful in the future," Ms. Price says. "It's not how many can we admit, but how can we keep the community healthy and partner with the community. Those initiatives are exciting to see."

More Articles on Hospital CFO Leadership:
Strong Healthcare CFO Leadership: What Does It Take Today?
Financial Success in Challenging Times: Q&A With Dignity Health CFO Michael Blaszyk
CFOs as "Chief Flight Officers": CHE Trinity Health's Ben Carter on Financial Leadership Today

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