Five years ago, in my holiday message to HFMA members, I wrote that during this busy time of year, we should make time for reflection, soul searching and connecting with something that transcends personal concerns, no matter which winter holiday we celebrate or what our faith traditions may be. That’s the core of my holiday message to HFMA employees every year. Many of us have heard similar messages elsewhere, maybe in our place of worship.
Transcending our individual concerns and differences had never seemed more important than it did when I wrote that message in 2017 because our society was so deeply divided at that time. Since then, unfortunately, the divisiveness has increased. The pandemic and other recent events have exacerbated the breakdown of trust in societal institutions that began years before.
Broken trust extends to healthcare as well. The nurse staffing crisis is in part a reflection of the need to rebuild trust between nurses and the healthcare organizations that employ them. For example, only 19% of nurses under age 35 agree that their organization “really cares about [their] wellbeing,” according to an American Nurses Association survey. We know that collaboration between those who deliver care and those who ensure the financial viability of care delivery is vitally important. Among HFMA’s nursing initiatives, in both 2020 and 2022, we teamed with nursing groups to publish reports exploring new solutions for nurse staffing issues.
HFMA’s efforts to build trust with consumers dates back to 2006, when Consumerism in health care was published. Our Healthcare Dollars & Sense industry-consensus best practices on price transparency, patient financial communications and medical debt are built on that Patient-Friendly Billing® foundation.
Today, consumer trust in healthcare providers is still lacking. An HFMA survey cited in the Association’s Healthcare 2030 report Restoring trust in healthcare, issued this year, found that finance leaders tend to believe the biggest drivers of distrust are financial concerns, including general payment confusion (58%) and lack of price transparency (26%).
Yet many respondents to the survey don’t see their organizations as part of the trust gap. Some ascribe it to the government or the CDC. Indeed, nearly 40% of respondents believe consumer trust increased during the pandemic. Another 18% believe it remained unchanged. Meanwhile, data from consumers suggest otherwise. Nearly one out of four consumers surveyed by The Beryl Institute said the pandemic changed their perspective on hospitals for the worse.
As I prepare for my retirement in June, I will have many parting thoughts to share with you — and they relate to causes that transcend the individual level. There’s a lot of work to do. But restoring trust is a prerequisite for all of it. In this era of retail giants laser focused on consumers, trust is the foundation. This is the season for wishing peace, health and happiness to all. Let’s find ways to make the spirit of the season last by focusing on trust. Our future depends on it.
To learn more about HFMA’s consumerism initiatives, read Beyond the numbers: History of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, published in 2022.