Citing historic examples of leaders who surmounted seemingly impossible odds, the new Chair of HFMA Michael M. Allen urged healthcare finance leaders to dare to take on current massive challenges.
Past major healthcare accomplishments were only possible because leaders dared to undertake them, according to Allen in his address to attendees of the HFMA Annual Conference 2019.
“When was the last time you did something bold, uncertain?” asked Allen, FHFMA, CPA, the CFO at OSF HealthCare in Peoria, Illinois.
Among the many big, complex and important challenges confronting finance leaders in healthcare, the biggest is the cost of care.
“People cannot afford our care; I dare you to move,” Allen said. “We have a delivery system and financing system that emphasizes sick care over well care.”
Allen also cited pressures from the “surging war” for outpatient care, which aims to provide greater convenience and lower cost. Another part of that is technology that enables the so-called hospital at home programs.
“People cannot understand the bills we send them,” Allen said. “Heck, I don’t understand them sometimes.”
The problem stems in part from the strains between those who pay for care and those who deliver care, which leaves patients caught in between them.
Another challenge is that the healthcare industry has failed to use technology to improve the quality of its work and reduce administrative costs.
Allen said healthcare is entering a significant period of transition, where the legacy workforce is still in place, even amid waves of automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
“We are far behind most other industries using automation and technology to make our work better and to make the experience for our patients better, easier and on their terms,” Allen said.
In response, leaders need to create the finance workforce of the future.
“All of our jobs will be changing, some jobs will not exist, and new jobs will emerge,” Allen said.
Break it to make it
Allen criticized “smallness, protecting turf, and playing it safe.”
“See, I’ve come to realize that if you want something to change, something where the stakes are too high to let it ride, then you have to break it,” Allen said.
Fear and failure may be holding leaders back from the major changes they need to undertake.
“Failure can be painful. But failure can open up new options, and maybe a path to the greater goal that otherwise would have never been seen,” Allen said.
Especially among high achievers, the idea that it’s not okay to fail can be dangerous, Allen said.
“And if you aren’t out there, then you can’t make a difference,” Allen said. “Embrace fear.”
As part of his term, Allen launched the 1000 Dares Project, to encourage and celebrate daring to take action.
“Share your dare,” Allen urged. He suggested attendees share undertakings that made them uncomfortable, where they left the safety of the familiar, where they faced their fears or where they embraced a failure. No dare moments are too big or too small to be included in the 1,000 dares Allen hopes to collect.
“I‘ve got a couple of thousand overachievers in this room, so I expect we destroy that goal by the end of July!” Allen said. “And if it goes slow, or we don’t reach 1000? I will embrace the failure, learn from it, and keep moving.”