Three Ways Today’s Healthcare CFO Is No Longer A Traditional CFO

By Tim Susterich, chief provider network strategy and contracting officer, HealthBridge Financial, Inc.

Tim Susterich

Though healthcare CFOs still occupy a traditional role in many organizations, the role has significantly expanded in recent years. No longer can a CFO of a major healthcare system simply focus on cash flow, financial planning and balancing the books. Today, the role must be more strategic and visible, both inside and outside the organization.

Here are three ways a modern healthcare CFO can add more value to his or her organization.

1. Be More Visible

Visibility within the organization is critical. Today’s CFO can’t be holed up in her office. She must be more visible, walking the hallways, meeting people and taking her leadership outside of the finance department. From physician network teams and registration/scheduling to telemedicine and population health departments, the CFO must take an active role to ensure she has her pulse on what is going on, always with an eye to ensuring that patients have access to quality, affordable care throughout the system.

Healthcare today is broader than the four walls of the hospital.  Its reach includes the emergency room, the physician’s office, the home, and the community. Because the CFO often weighs in on where money is best spent, the CFO needs to have visibility to every aspect of the system. The CFO can play a critical role in helping deliver the best healthcare experience for a health system’s patient population.

2. Focus on Community Health

Health systems are a community asset and sometimes even the crown jewel of the community. A dynamic CFO works with community leaders to ensure that the healthcare needs of the community are being met.  Much work has been done around the Social Determinants of Health, so we know that where people live, learn, work, and play affects a wide range of health and quality-of life-risks and outcomes.  Being ever-present and building strong bridges to the community can preserve or even grow market share.  But most of all, it can lead to better clinical outcomes, with happier and healthier patients. Community involvement allows people to have frequent positive experiences with their local healthcare system, which ultimately supports the system’s success and competitive advantage.

3. Build Relationships with Local Employers and their Employees

It’s important that the CFO develop relationships with local employers and employees as these groups fund the lion’s share of healthcare today.  When employers pay over $20,000 per year for their employees’ family premium, the CFO should understand that these local employers want value for their money and that the health system, in part, is responsible for that.  The Employer’s Guide to Financial Wellness 2019 Report from Salary Finance  states that “a majority of employees feel financial stress, with 56 percent of employees considering themselves financially unwell.”

When the average out of pocket on a health plan is $8,000 and the average patient has about $400 in savings for emergencies, CFO’s will need to explore and welcome new financial security programs that help their patients accept care when they need it. Times are changing and innovative financing models are starting to spring up to replace traditional revenue cycle solutions. Becoming familiar with them and how local employers are looking to use them to help put confidence back behind that insurance card creates a win-win for all parties.

For today’s CFO, it’s no longer just about the internal workings of the finance department or the health system that employs her.  It’s about collaborating with the entire healthcare ecosystem, including the payer, employer/patient and the provider.  Developing and maintaining partnerships across the system, the community, and with local employers has never been more important to a CFO’s success.

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