“It’s good to see you!” Two years ago, this customary greeting might have been muttered with little to no thought. That was before.
But when chapter leaders gathered July 25-27 in Orlando for HFMA’s 2021 Leadership Training Conference (LTC), the greeting was exclaimed with heartfelt sincerity, because it was true! While we were careful to exercise social distancing, it was refreshing to gather with our chapter leaders to plot our path forward. We talked about what defined “before” for us as healthcare professionals, what we learned over these past 18 months or so and how we can be better.
What has resonated with me during the pandemic is the incredible disparity we witnessed in disease prevalence, mortality rates and access to care as a result of the risks associated with social determinants of health (SDoH). Although health disparities have been well documented for years, the pandemic revealed these issues in undeniable ways.
When it comes to SDoH, one might think, “This problem is too big,” or “It’s not mine to fix,” or even as LTC keynote speaker Anton Gunn, the former head of the Office of External Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said, “If someone gets ahead, it means I will lose something in exchange.”
In fact, none of that is true. Yes, the problems are big, but we can — and should — have an impact. And we certainly can promote health equity without losing.
We can track data across socioeconomic metrics to ensure our revenue cycle processes and practices do not exacerbate SDoH in inequitable ways. Our digital front doors provide an opportunity to meet patients where they are with transparency and customizable options that can reduce their financial burden. Even telehealth, when intentionally deployed to be inclusive, can provide such promise for all patients regardless of challenges. Health equity — simply put — means we all have an equal opportunity to be healthy. This premise does not describe today’s reality, and we can no longer claim we are not aware of that fact. As healthcare finance professionals, we must be bold in thought and approach.
It is not lost on me that this month will mark the passage of two decades since another tragic event that changed our lives forever: Sept. 11, 2001. So much loss that day and so much lost — such that we will never forget. I remember rushing to pick up my son early from preschool that day. It’s interesting that much like the sentiment back in July at LTC, it was critically important that I hug him and tell him so sincerely, “It’s good to see you!” May we all recall that kind, empathetic sentiment as we forge this Bolder. Brighter. Better. path forward.