In the news

Stretching Outside of the Four Hospital Walls

Not long ago, adding more patient beds was the principle capital expenditure for many health systems and hospitals. But in today’s environment of value-based care, that has changed.

Healthcare leaders are shifting their capital strategies. According to “Reevaluating capital spending strategies”, from Healthcare Finance News, “As healthcare reimbursement shifts from a system that rewards quantity of care to quality of care, the onus is on the CFO to determine where best to allocate financial resources.”

Now, in order to provide care outside of traditional settings, systems focus on outpatient care and deploy capital to acquire physician practices that grow their reach.  Systems are also more prudent about equipment purchases and work to share equipment between facilities.

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CFOs and the Supply Chain: A winning strategy

Over the past couple of years, in this space you’ve seen the discussion about supply chain as a strategic asset for healthcare organizations, and how important it is that those in the C-suite understand and view it as such.  A recent Dow Jones/Deloitte Risk & Compliance Journal report titled “How CFOs Are Reshaping Supply Chains” makes this case very compellingly.

The report notes that while both chief risk officers (CROs) and chief financial officers (CFOs) have long been involved with supply chain oversight, finance chiefs—with their eyes on cost controls, risk management and the levers of working capital—are increasingly involving themselves.

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Fear Stymies Innovation…BUT it shouldn’t

Things move forward at a rapid pace because of innovation and we’ve been hearing for quite a while now about the need for greater innovation in healthcare. Innovation in healthcare has been challenging due to many factors, including the fast pace of change and a general fear of failure.

Last week in Becker’s Hospital Review I read a post discussing healthcare’s fear of failure and how that stymies innovation. The article’s author interviewed Louis Burns, CEO at Intel-GE Care Innovations, who discussed the importance of being a disrupter in your own industry, if change is indeed going to happen. To overcome this innovation stagnation in healthcare, Mr. Burns says that healthcare leaders need to take big risks and reimagine the healthcare delivery system.

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Sustainability Can Really Pay Off

The core mandates of the Affordable Care Act are to increase access to healthcare, while decreasing costs and limiting waste. Every U.S. healthcare organization today is looking for ways to align with healthcare reform in order to meet these goals. While companies are instituting a number of different initiatives, there is one that we believe strongly in that has recently been getting more and more interest from the industry – sustainability.

According to a recent study from the Commonwealth Fund, sustainability initiatives could save the healthcare industry up to $5.4 billion over five years, and $15 billion over 10 years. Those are some really big numbers.

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Connecting the Dots – Integrating Health Systems Post-Acquisition/Merger

Hospital and health system consolidations have been on the rise. The most recent statistics available indicated that there were 90 deals targeting 156 hospitals in 2011, according to “The Health Care Services Acquisition Report”, 18th Edition, by Irving Levin Associates. When the statistics for 2012 are finally tallied, an even higher number is expected.

This surge in consolidation is partially driven by provider responses to both the challenges and opportunities created by national and state healthcare reform. But mergers and consolidation also bring complex business considerations. If you add state and federal laws that can further complicate a transaction, healthcare leaders can find themselves facing even more potential obstacles.

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Transportation Steps into the National Healthcare Spotlight

Earlier this month in Healthcare Finance News, an article called “8 kinds of waste driving healthcare costs” really caught my attention. I was pleased to see that healthcare transportation has become part of the national healthcare dialogue. Marc Hafer, author of the book Simpler Healthcare, shared his views on eight different areas that could “inhibit patient flow, add cost, increase poor quality and infection and decrease patient and clinician satisfaction.”

First on the list: “transportation.” We know from our discussions with healthcare supply chain managers that transportation is not a core competency of healthcare systems or providers. But, while many organizations outsource many other areas (laundry, food service, EMS), a large number continue to retain their own transportation operations, often with minimal technology for tracking.

But perhaps the tide is turning.

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A Change in the Wind

I suspect many of us in this industry have been having the same types of conversations over the last three weeks.  Now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is moving forward, we all will continue what will certainly be a long journey towards changing the way healthcare does business.  Value-based purchasing, creation of accountable care organizations and national bundled payment pilots will force healthcare to strike the balance between cost and quality, without sacrificing either.

To me, this change in how we do business means that some of the truths we have always known need to be challenged.  For example, in the purchased services world

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The Supreme Court has spoken: Now what?

Like many of you, I was in a meeting Thursday morning when one of the smart phones pinged with news of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act. And, I would imagine, like many of you, we stopped what we were doing to talk about it. No surprise there since this has been on the minds of all of us in healthcare and of many, if not most, of our fellow Americans. After all, no less perhaps than the future makeup of U.S. healthcare was at stake.

So, now that there is a decision, what does it mean? Well, regardless of political leanings or personal opinions, there are two main points of consensus, in my opinion:

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A Common Sense Approach to Business Strategy

I read a blog post recently that I found very insightful.  This blog from the  Harvard Business Review, reflected on the fact that all too often, management’s first instinct is to attack issues by redrawing the organization chart.  Instead, it is suggested, they should look at the inner workings of the company including decision rights, information flow and motivators to understand the “DNA” that makes up their organizations.

As an example, they discuss a company that in the early 1990s had disappointing company performance. Under a restructuring plan, costs fell by 18%, but over the next 8 years, those same layers that had been cut out, crept back in.

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What Does 2012 Hold for Healthcare?

The new year encourages us to make a few predictions and set goals for the coming year. As 2012 gets underway, I think it’s safe to say we all expect it to be another demanding year in healthcare.

HealthLeaders recently posted an article titled “4 Unpleasant Predictions for 2012.” While I’m not sure we want to start off the New Year with unpleasantness, a realistic approach is crucial. Using HealthLeaders’ annual survey, as well as her own conversations with healthcare CFOs, the author, Karen Minich-Pourshadi made her predictions for the top concerns facing healthcare financial leaders in 2012.

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