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Healthcare finance professionals are applying their strategic and analytical skills to solve health care’s most intractable problems.

 

But communication skills are necessary to make those solutions come alive. For example, as shown in this issue of hfm, effective communication is deeply intertwined with efforts to improve clinical quality while reducing costs. Project goals need to be communicated clearly—in particular, that improved quality is the top priority. Clear communication about performance measures and results, evidence-based practices, and cost of care is essential. And achieving improvements often requires enhanced communication among caregivers for continuity of care and between caregivers and patients to improve patient adherence to a care plan.

Closer to home for healthcare finance professionals is the importance of communicating with consumers about their financial responsibility for care—a growing concern as insurance plan designs become more complex and make patients responsible for greater portions of their healthcare costs. HFMA recently took a major step toward improving communications in this area with the release of new Patient Financial Communications Best Practices. These practices articulate specific steps to communicate with patients about the cost of services they receive, their insurance coverage, and their individual responsibility. The practices cover communication prior to service, in the emergency department, and in other settings. You can also show your community that you’ve adopted these best practices through HFMA’s recognition program. See the best practices and apply for the recognition at hfma.org/communications.

With this emphasis on communication, it’s logical for healthcare finance professionals to turn for support to the skilled communicators in their organizations. That idea was the centerpiece of a recent conference cosponsored by HFMA’s San Diego Imperial Chapter and the Health Care Communicators of San Diego, where healthcare finance and communications professionals came together to discuss key healthcare trends and the implications for communication with organization staff, consumers, and the media.

Conversations at the event suggested an opportunity to improve collaboration between these two groups. Some communications professionals told me that they need to be better informed about healthcare trends and how those trends will change how consumers and healthcare organizations interact. And some finance professionals told me they would welcome the chance to improve their ability to communicate about these complex issues.

All of which suggests three next steps (one of which, you’ll be glad to know, involves food):

  • Implement the ideas in this issue of hfm to enhance communication as a tool to improve quality and efficiency.
  • Adopt the new Patient Financial Communications Best Practices and be recognized for your achievements.
  • Schedule lunch with a communications professional at your organization, and plan how you can help the communications staff understand the intricacies of health system change and how they can help you communicate that message within and beyond your organization. 

I’m convinced that, together, finance and communications can change health care.

Publication Date: Monday, December 02, 2013

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