Joe Fifer: The courage to embrace change
During one of my first meetings with HFMA staff in 2012, I advised the assembled staffers that if they thought they’d be sitting next to the same people and doing the same things in a year’s time, they were probably mistaken. When I noticed people squirming in their seats, I hastened to add that I wasn’t signaling impending layoffs. I was just trying to send a message that change is coming — in healthcare, it’s a constant — and they shouldn’t let their comfort level with their current roles slide into complacency. as Benjamin Franklin once put it, “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”
I realize that it takes courage to adopt that mindset. I chose “Courage in Leadership” as my theme when I served as voluntary HFMA board chair in 2006 because all healthcare finance professionals have opportunities to lead, irrespective of title or job description. Actions that require courage in leadership range from small everyday acts, like voicing a valid but unpopular opinion, to taking bigger risks, like supporting an outside-the-box initiative. Courage in leadership means going beyond what’s expected, taking risks for the right reasons and doing what’s right because it is right.
I had courage in leadership in mind when I raised the issue of the “hard truths” in the January 2020 issue of hfm. It takes courage to face up to the hard truth about consumerism in healthcare — that is, the reality that legacy healthcare stakeholders have a lot of catch-up work to do. Little did I know when I began discussing this topic that a global pandemic was imminent. My hard-truths message was put on the back burner. And I was proud and awed to see the courage in leadership demonstrated by healthcare team members and organizations everywhere that stepped up to meet the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic.
By shining a spotlight on longstanding health disparities, the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for the entire industry to refocus on social determinants of health (SDoH), the most important factor in health status and one that has been under-recognized and under-resourced for too long.
But the SDoH issue runs deeper than pandemic-related disparities. No country’s healthcare system can achieve cost effectiveness of health — i.e., minimize the costs associated with delivering optimal health outcomes — without addressing SDoH. Healthcare finance leaders will need the courage to develop payment arrangements that focus on CEoH, which is primarily concerned with keeping the populations they serve healthy and out of high-cost care settings, while also providing for sustainable operating margins.
To succeed, going forward, healthcare finance leaders will need the courage to embrace change, not only professionally but also at the organizational and health system levels. That includes the courage to recognize that you need to step up and become a change leader when others around you are hesitating.
Change is indeed a constant in healthcare. HFMA provides the tools and resources you need to navigate all the changes that are transpiring in healthcare finance. It’s up to you to summon the courage.