In this Business Profile, Cindy Matthews, executive vice president, Community Hospital Corporation, discusses how rural and community hospitals can use collaborative partnering to position for success through tough market conditions.


Cindy Matthews, Executive Vice President, CHCTell me a little about your organization.

Community Hospital Corporation (CHC) is a not-for-profit corporation organized in 1996 by the CEOs of 13 not-for-profit health systems in Texas and New Mexico. The CEOs' goal was to preserve and protect community hospitals that were struggling financially by providing critical management resources so the organizations could remain viable to serve their communities. And that’s still our mission today: to guide, support, and enhance the mission of community hospitals and healthcare providers.

Community hospitals are unique, so they need different types of support. There is no cookie-cutter approach. Through our three distinct organizations, we offer consulting, management, and ownership models to meet these needs. For example, some organizations may require only strategic support through a menu of services on a consulting resource basis, while others prefer a management agreement where we employ the CEO, CNO, and CFO and report directly to the board.

And sometimes, hospital boards are interested in acquisition, where we manage all aspects of the organization through a lease or ownership model. It depends on what the hospital board and community need.

What are some of the biggest concerns you see among healthcare organizations?

The biggest challenge our community hospital partners face is reimbursement. We work in many states—Texas and Georgia, for example—where legislators have decided not to expand Medicaid. These hospitals are extremely burdened with bad debt and indigent care. And frequently, independent hospitals find they need leadership resources to navigate these deeper levels of financial challenge. At CHC, we provide expertise to help hospitals maximize performance in the revenue cycle, supply chain, IT, productivity, and clinical areas, among others.

Another issue facing many organizations around the country is the decline of inpatient utilization, so we also assist with competitive strategy, vision, and growth. We create new revenue growth strategies while also improving operations for greater efficiency.

What does the engagement process look like?

When we initially engage with a hospital—whether we are consulting, managing, or leasing—we begin with an operational assessment. Our team of experts completes a desktop evaluation of data. Then eight to 10 of our team members go onsite to evaluate what’s occurring in the organization’s areas of operation, such as revenue cycle, productivity and staffing, and IT.

On the growth side, we look at the medical staff needs through physician interviews to assess whether the community has the number of physicians it needs and to identify a recruitment and medical staff development plan that aligns with physician feedback.

We also conduct a community health needs assessment to understand unmet service needs in the marketplace (for example, whether there may be a need for cardiac or diabetic programming). After the assessments are complete, we provide a comprehensive report that identifies savings opportunities and then implement an action plan.

Can you share some key considerations for healthcare leaders when they consider partnering with an organization like yours?

When selecting a partner, ask whether options are flexible, so you can receive the right mix of resources.

Also, seek the right level of experience. Organizations need a partner able to understand what is happening in the healthcare industry and the marketplace from both a strategic and practical level. Because we own hospitals, we are not just consultants. We put our recommendations into practice every day. Also, as a not-for-profit, we don’t answer to shareholders; we answer to hospital boards and understand the importance of boards. In fact, all of our hospitals have a local fiduciary board, even those we own or lease, to ensure the community has a sense of control and a say of what happens to its hospital.

And, of course, cultural fit and mission compatibility should be at the forefront of any partnering decision. Our mission at CHC is to ensure community hospitals are viable into the future. We understand that these organizations are vital assets to those they serve. As a result, we will frequently work with the hospital board to identify a tertiary partner in the marketplace to team with us through a clinical affiliation. Doing so creates a valuable reciprocal relationship. In fact, such partners will also typically help with physician recruitment—by placing primary care physicians on campus, for example—and rotate their specialists through the community hospital to improve access to care.

Any other tips for how organizations can best set themselves up for success in integrating these types of services into daily operations?

Shared accountability is key. Typically, our team and the hospital team meet bi-weekly—especially in the early months of our collaboration—to hold each other accountable and ensure it’s very clear from the outset the ways progress will be defined, the stakeholders assigned to each action item, and the dates for completion.

The CHC team is deeply immersed in implementing operational improvements with our client hospitals. We are there to answer questions when just a little help is needed or we roll up our sleeves onsite, side by side with the local staff to get things done. Reaching out for help is the first step a hospital can make toward financial and operational improvements.

Where can readers learn more about Community Hospital Corporation services?

Visit our website. By clicking on the "news and events" tab, readers can review more than a dozen case studies about our work with community hospitals and the results we have achieved together. There is also a useful FAQ under that same tab, as well as details on recent news, awards, and recognition for many of the organizations we work with.

Community Hospital CorporationHFMA is the nation's leading membership organization for more than 40,000 healthcare financial management professionals. Business Profiles are funded through advertising with leading solution providers. Learn more.

Content for this Business Profile is supplied by Community Hospital Corporation. This published piece is provided for advertisement purposes. HFMA does not endorse the published material or warrant or guarantee its accuracy. The statements and opinions of those profiled are those of the individual and not those of HFMA. References to commercial manufacturers, vendors, products, or services that appear do not constitute endorsement by HFMA.


Publication Date: Sunday, March 01, 2015