Column | Financial Leadership

Work: The Cure For Political Overload

Column | Financial Leadership

Work: The Cure For Political Overload

HFMA President and CEO Joe Fifer discusses why today’s healthcare challenges transcend politics—and the implications for healthcare finance leaders. 

The mid-term elections are over. Can we get back to business?

 

Setting aside the election results (because HFMA is a nonpartisan organization), the good news is that this was the first midterm in history to exceed 100 million votes. Nearly half of eligible voters exercised their civic rights, a midterm participation level not seen in decades.

The bad news is that uncertainty surrounding the elections led to financial market jitters, deferred business decisions, and seemingly endless speculation on election outcomes (i.e., lost productivity). And the political news cycle hasn’t slowed down for a nanosecond. Public attention has already shifted to the next turn of the political wheel.

Back when the country was waiting for the 2016 election results, HFMA’s message to members was simple: Don’t get distracted by political theater. The forces driving change in health care are fundamental, structural forces that won’t be derailed by whatever may be going on in Washington at any given moment. Our message now is basically the same as it was in 2016—but it carries greater urgency. Why does health care need your undivided attention now? Several reasons.

For one, value-based payment (VBP) methodologies need work. Based on research we conducted this year, early experiments with these methodologies are not curbing growth in total cost of care. Yet common sense and emerging results (i.e., from more recent activity) tell us that VBP shows promise. We must focus on developing VBP models that make a dent in healthcare spending, and that means incorporating social determinants of health and behavioral health—in other words, spending the time and making the effort to move beyond our acute care comfort zone.

Second, amid increasing merger and acquisition activity, we now have evidence that achieving the size required for population health management, or even just achieving economies of scale, comes at a cost. A research project HFMA conducted in partnership with the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions found that acquired hospitals are likely to lose money in the first two years after a merger unless they pay close attention to integration planning and execution. Mergers may be common, but successful mergers are far from routine.

And third, consumerism should move up on the priority list for healthcare organizations. Although many healthcare leaders recognize that consumerism is important, too often, it isn’t viewed as urgent. As a result, the industry has experienced slowly and steadily diminishing levels of public trust. Improving price transparency and adopting best practices for patient financial communications can go a long way toward rebuilding that trust.

With enough time, energy, and enthusiasm, I’m confident that we will be able to meet these challenges. Breaking the cycle of waiting for the results of the next election—or for someone else to solve our issues—is a good start.

About the Author

Joseph J. Fifer, FHFMA, CPA,

is President and CEO of HFMA.

Advertisements

Related Articles | Financial Leadership

News | Charity Care

Healthcare News of Note: Fewer patients translates to a small reduction in charity care spend for hospitals

Healthcare News of Note for healthcare finance professionals is a roundup of recent news articles, including a reduction in charity care in 2020 due to fewer patients, a review of physician burnout and moral injury data, and what early adopters are doing to test 5G.

Article | Leadership

HFMA’s formative years: An evolution in chapters

HFMA remembers two of its founding fathers, and the beginning of it's Chapters.

Column | Leadership

Addressing racial disparities in healthcare: It's time now

HFMA President and CEO Joe Fifer urges healthcare leaders to recognize and address the connections between healthcare finance and racial disparities.

Column | Financial Leadership

'Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?'

HFMA Chair Mike Allen says if we take anything away from how the COVID-19 pandemic has kept us from seeing people and doing things we enjoy, it’s to truly appreciate and savor these precious moments in our lives.