The Annual Conference featured more than 80 sessions across seven content tracks. Among the many insights:
Accounting and Finance. Rating agencies were focused on the cash reserves of hospitals and health systems at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Twenty months later, that hasn’t changed much, said Ric Magnuson, executive vice president and CFO with Minneapolis-based Allina Health System, during the panel session “Managing Rating Agency and Investor Relations in Turbulent Times.”
“The big concern right now is the CMS repayment dollars and, as we go through this next year, what that's going to do to your balance sheet,” Magnuson said. “Most of them take that out of your equation as they're looking at it. They're adjusting for that.”
Business Strategy. In the session “Impacting Health Equity from the CFO’s Chair,” Northwell Health CFO Michele Cusack said her organization’s approach to increasing equity is heavily based on building community engagement. It requires a full commitment to the principles behind the effort, not just the expected payoff, she added.
Cusack outlined immediate action items for CFOs:
- Look inward at your own finance staff and hiring practices.
- Work with your local community to define opportunities for collaboration and invest in the social components of health equity.
- Activate the social drivers of health in risk-based models.
- Engage with your board of directors and coordinate with state and local regulators.
- Recognize you may not be able to do it all.
Cost Effectiveness of Health. Faced with capital needs that exceeded its available funds, Providence Heart Institute in Washington state restructured its operation, creating both clinical and financial benefits.
Instead of having two underperforming facilities and one strong performer, the institute centralized the programs in a single center of excellence with one chief of surgery, Matthew Ducsik, associate vice president, explained during the presentation “Centers of Excellence for Specialty Services: A Strategy for Value-Based Care.”
All surgeons were credentialed at each affiliated hospital in the organization’s Puget Sound service area, and common standards and metrics for quality and affordability were adopted. Other aspects of the restructuring included integrating services to create a seamless experience and engaging payers as partners.
Consumerism. Telehealth is an effective mechanism for providing an optimal patient experience, even in the case of emergency care, said Annemarie Sheets, MD, in the session “Value in Healthcare: Right Information, Right Place, Right Time.”
Sheets sees a tele-EP (emergency physician) model as a vital tool in channeling the fundamental value that physicians bring to healthcare, namely their ability to gather, interpret and apply patient information.
“Tele-EP translates, organizes and interprets the patient's health problem into a formal medical document, enhancing doctor-patient communication and improving collaboration between physicians,” said Sheets, who previously launched MD at Bedside, an urgent-care house-call practice.
Emerging Technology. Telehealth investment also can establish an optimal infrastructure for treating substance-use disorders (SUDs), according to the presentation “Building a Substance Use Disorder Program with Your Telehealth Investment.”
Telehealth can be applied to all four levels of SUD care as designated by the American Society of Addiction Medicine: outpatient treatment, intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization, residential treatment and hospital inpatient treatment.
An effective telehealth SUD program utilizes a facilitator — essentially a case manager — who establishes the connectivity with the patient and ensures the patient understands the treatment plan and has the resources to comply.
Leveraging Data and Analytics. North Mississippi Health Services in Tupelo implemented a rolling forecast model as the pandemic began, giving the seven-hospital health system financial-planning data at a time when it was desperately needed, leaders said in “Using Financial Analytics to Respond to Major Changes in the Healthcare Industry.”
Adam Crouch, FHFMA, director of decision support, said North Mississippi Health’s rolling forecast model has three main parts. The first phase entailed creating a data governance structure to define budget categories and other variables.
Also, for consistency’s sake, key statistics needed to be chosen for their ability to tell the financial story of the system’s performance.
Finally, the model required the application of a strategic process to consider issues such as how external pressures will affect cost structure and volumes.
Revenue Cycle. Cooperation between providers and payers can enhance billing processes, an especially important goal in this era of rising cost-sharing, according to the session “Transforming the Patient Billing Paradigm with Payer and Provider Collaboration.”
Because patients’ likelihood of paying their bills comes down not only to affordability but also to issues of convenience and simplicity, coordination between payers and providers can be a game-changer.
“About 30% of the time, we found payer EOBs do not match the provider bill,” said Seth Cohen, president of Cedar. “Sometimes it's small — different language, things are formatted differently, it’s hard to follow where the balances correspond. When you're a patient and you're looking at an EOB and a bill from a provider and they don't match, you throw them away. You assume something needs to be reprocessed.”
On the horizon
HFMA’s Annual Conference is scheduled to return to its usual late-June window in 2022, meaning next year’s event is a little more than seven months away. Mark your calendar for the gathering in Denver.