On this episode of HFMA’s Voices in Healthcare Finance podcast, Melissa McCain, director and leader of the consumer access digital transformation practice of The Chartis Group and Charles Alston, market executive leader of Bank of America’s healthcare team in the southeastern U.S., discussed HFMA’s Healthcare 2030 series and what hospitals and health systems should be considering as they plan for the next decade.
Results from a survey of more than 400 hospital and health system CFOs showed that leaders are concerned about disruption from outside the industry when it comes to meeting consumer expectations. When asked how vulnerable the industry is in that area (1 being not vulnerable, 5 being very vulnerable), more than 68% of respondents came back with a 4 or 5. McCain said provider organizations would do best to focus on what their patients want and need, rather than trying to respond in real time to disruptor threats, she said.
“When you, as an organization, really begin to orient toward the consumer, you’re not even thinking of it in terms of in advance of something,” she said. “It is the right thing to do for your consumers, and you are propelled by that as much as something that might be happening in your market.”
Why the digital front door is not enough
Many of the issues around consumer wants revolve around access to care, McCain said. But because patients have different needs, there should be more than one way to get that access.
“There’s always a risk, when a topic starts gaining momentum such as digital front door today, that some organizations may see it as the answer, or one of only two answers,” she said. “In reality, what is happening is…it’s more additive. It’s not replacing anything. It’s adding to what you may have.”
For example, this could mean adding automation and better workflows to existing call centers, offering a consistent experience online and tailoring workflows for referring providers.
“It’s not a single digital door,” she said. “It’s multiple digital doors. It’s a front door for new patients. It’s what we call a stage door for the referring provider and maybe the side door for established patients who have already gone through the front door and know their way around the system. And you’re going to need to be enhancing those other, more human-based interactions such as a phone.”
Forming a financial strategy for the future
Also on this episode, Alston discussed the financial benefits of partnerships, particularly for smaller hospitals with smaller budgets.
“Partner wisely so that you can close a gap that you may have,” he said. “From a banker’s standpoint, be resourceful and be good stewards of the capital that you have and the liquidity that you have. Be smart with your strategic plan. Allow it to focus on what your strengths are.”
Alston also addressed lessons the healthcare industry can learn from banking, particularly in a time when care is moving away from inpatient facilities.
“If these inpatient volume shifts come to fruition, there is going to be a lot of unused hospital space, potentially,” he said. “The same thing has happened with us with our financial centers, and having to reimagine what that space is really wanted for and needed for by our community. It’s moved more from a transactional environment…into an advisory environment.”
This concept goes hand in hand with planning for the best use of employees, Alston said. Using all resources effectively should be a key focus for healthcare providers, he said.
“It all has to tie back to what their mission is, and that’s to continue to provide care efficiently and effectively and then continuously improve at that,” he said.