The key priorities of finance in healthcare are evolving rapidly as the industry moves towards value-based care, process automation, and financial sustainability. Therefore, the role of the chief financial officer (CFO) is also evolving to meet the needs of the challenging healthcare landscape. Today this leadership role requires skills that transcend the traditional scope of finance.
Healthcare CFOs of today are trusted business partners and strategic thought partners to the CEO and leadership team, with a strong understanding of the macro and micro challenges facing healthcare today, as well as the clinical and operational challenges facing their organisation. The CFO of today needs a deep people focus, which drives an inclusive culture, innovation and clear communication. Automation of processes, accessibility to data and real-time reporting are increasingly important for a CFO.
In my 20-year career in healthcare finance, I have come across many situations where my team and I are questioned about finance involvement in processes and decisions made at operational level. So why is it important to involve finance, and what role do they play?
Well, finance needs to be “unboxed”. Finance must educate the organisation on how and why it can be a trusted business partner. As result of its access to large sets of data including financial, clinical and operational, as well as high analytical skills, the finance team is uniquely placed to be able to determine relationships and draw conclusions from the data, which helps to inform improved decision-making, mitigate risk and improve efficiencies.
We look at the impact of the changing role of finance.
Streamlining payment processes
Patient-centred care means we need to take into consideration that we have a more informed patient population with high expectations, looking for easy access and instant service with remote options. A patient’s financial journey can be the source of additional stress and anxiety for patients already worried about their health. Creating a patient financial journey, which provides all the necessary information prior to arriving at the facility, in addition to ease of access and efficient payment options, is a priority for any finance department.
Making sure we have a robust process that provides patients with upfront information on their insurance coverage, their financial responsibility for their care, cost estimation for out-of-pocket expenses with easy payment options, is essential for an enhanced patient experience. This information needs to be delivered with sensitivity and care, by well-trained and experienced staff.
Investing in innovation and people
Finance needs to work closely with the organisation to design the budget to support the needs of the patient at every level, which results in being able to invest in the latest technology, equipment and leading medical talent.
Effective financial planning to achieve financial health of the organisation allows us to invest in innovation to support improved processes and efficiencies. Excellence and best practice in finance should be supported through the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) and other software solutions that facilitate the financial planning, analysis and reporting leading to improved accuracy and speed of decision making.
Sustainability and staff resilience
Sustainable financial performance allows the organisation to reinvest in equipment, infrastructure and people. At SSMC, our focus on the value equation will lead to a reduction of costs over time to achieve sustainability. When superior clinical outcomes, enhanced patient safety and exceptional patient experience combine, the cost of care over time decreases due to reduced utilisation, reduced complication rates and improved operational efficiencies. The increased trust resulting from this value equation drives loyalty and increased demand.
A culture of learning and growth is an important aspect for organisations to ensure that their staff is equipped with the latest methods, knowledge and best practice. Setting aside a dedicated learning and development budget for continuing medical education (CME) credits and investing in staff well-being and engagement, create a positive work environment that contributes to greater patient experience and reduced cost of attrition
We must take care of our staff so that they can take care of our patients, as they contribute to our primary goal to put the needs of the patient first. Educating the entire organisation on business acumen, revenue cycle management (RCM), supply chain and more, will help elevate the overall performance and outcomes.
Carolyn Millward is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC).
This article appears in the latest issue of Omnia Health Magazine. Read the full issue online today.
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