Column | Leadership

Reach for the Heart: A Plea for Healthcare Finance Leaders

Column | Leadership

Reach for the Heart: A Plea for Healthcare Finance Leaders

Healthcare finance professionals should use data to tell stories that resonate with listeners, including clinicians, on both a personal and an intellectual level.

What we measure, gets improved. With each story, lives change.

Each day, financial professionals are challenged to craft pictures and stories from endless sources of data to convey insights and enable solid decisions. It’s up to us to put a “face” to our collective work with physicians, clinicians, health plans, and community resources. Abraham Lincoln captured the importance of connecting to the emotional elements of passion and purpose when he penned, “In order to win a man to your cause, you must first reach his heart, the great high road to his reason.”

There are two basic ways to share knowledge: push information or create a pull with a compelling story. The best approach, perhaps, is to marry the two. When data and stories are used together, they resonate with audiences on both a personal and an intellectual level.

With the velocity of change, individuals and organizations frequently struggle with information overload and where to focus. Visualization has the power to turn a multitude of data points into a single image or groups of images to inform and inspire decision making and action.

The classic examples of bringing together clinical and financial data into a single picture are physician scorecards. They tell their stories by providing the data and support to tee up the right conversations among clinicians to achieve the best results. The resulting healthy competition and problem solving among physicians fuel continual innovation and improvement. Over time, physician scorecards have evolved into real-time clinical dashboards, tracking process measures upstream and aiding in decision support at the bedside. The resulting evidence-based medicine and consistency in care create the value patients and families need and deserve.

These examples illuminate the power of turning data into stories, creating a memorable call to action and acknowledging the difference each individual can make. These basic tactics cut through the noise and help focus action. Many caregivers often process information and decisions through their hearts first and their heads second to support or justify an initial impression. Images and storytelling leverage this hardwired response to convey the message more effectively than raw data or lists of statistics.

What was the last thing that profoundly moved you to action? Odds are good it was a story, backed by solid data. As financial professionals, we are the storytellers that contribute to advancing the health of individuals in our country. We identify trends, anticipate needs, and predict future performance. Our contribution is a perfect match with our physician, clinician, and health plan colleagues who are data-informed problem-solvers, too.

So be the change you desire to see in the world. Reach for the heart. And never forget: With each story, lives change.

About the Author

Carol A. Friesen, FHFMA, MPH,

is HFMA's 2017-18 National Chair. 

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