The Benefits of Departmental Blurred Lines at Healthcare Organizations

Not too long ago, I wrote about how the role of healthcare CFOs have transformed from being “number crunchers” into strategic business partners within their organizations. A recent article in Becker’s Hospital CFO that focused on two specific healthcare CFOs who have more day-to-day involvement within their organizations, made me want to revisit and further explore this topic of cross-functional engagement.

With readmissions impacting reimbursement, Pamela Hess, CFO of Saint Thomas Midtown and Saint Thomas West hospitals notes that she has gotten far more involved in meetings and initiatives including quality and infection control. While these are not the places we traditionally think CFOs are involved, Hess says she has learned a lot.

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Curing What Ails the Healthcare System: Shared Responsibility

Recently, I’ve written about how cost-cutting alone will not keep healthcare organizations in the black. We’ve heard it from analysts, and recently, article in HealthLeaders, we heard it from Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

In the article, Dr. Brawley cites staggering statistics about how much we spend, and will continue to spend, on healthcare and lays out what he thinks is a solution: promoting shared responsibility. And that means everyone: doctors, healthcare systems, insurers, drug companies, lawyers, patients, etc.

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Survival of the Fittest: Is Your Healthcare Organization Adapting?

Integration is a topic I am very interested in. It is a large part of what we do and I pay close attention to integration-related discussions and articles. Recently, I came across this HealthLeaders interview with Joe Gifford, MD, the CEO of the Providence-Swedish Health Alliance, which speaks to this very topic.

With the continual changes the healthcare industry has experienced, the mantra of “adapt or die,” has been heard before. But according to Mr. Gifford, that analogy to evolution biology really rings true. His take? Only organizations that take chances (adapt) will survive.

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Healthcare Providers Are Feeling the Squeeze: Cost-cutting alone just won’t cut it

“Healthcare providers as a group continue to operate with slim and shrinking margins,” according to recent analysis from Modern Healthcare. Sadly, that’s not a surprise to most of us. The study—which included acute-care, post-acute care, rehabilitation and specialty hospital groups as well as stand-alone hospitals— found that the average operating margin in 2013 was 3.1%, which was down from 3.6% in 2012. Over 61% of organizations saw their operating margins erode over the previous year.

While we’ve seen this coming, the news is sobering. And analysts are skeptical that the worst is over. According to Modern Healthcare, all three credit-rating agencies hold negative outlooks for the not-for-profit healthcare sector.

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Most Wired Hospitals

Hospitals & Health Networks, the magazine of the American Hospital Association recently released its list of the “Most Wired Hospitals, 2014.” On this notable list were a number of MedSpeed partners including UPMC, Advocate, Avera, Inova, Rush and Orlando Health. Congratulations to those and the other institutions recognized.

According to the cover story announcing the 16th annual Hospitals & Health Networks’ Most Wired list, hospitals that top the list employ a strategy around second-curve metrics to align health systems, physicians, clinical and nonclinical people across the continuum of care. Wired hospitals have effectively deployed a variety of foundational technologies and now have their eyes on data analytics and population health management.

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In This Era of Big Data, Avoid Being Data Rich and Information Poor

We live in the era of “big data.” It’s a term we come across on a nearly daily basis. The biggest problem with big data—pardon the play on words—is that data alone without insight can leave you information poor.

Recently, at Becker’s Hospital Review 5th Annual Meeting, one of the keynote speakers, Toby Cosgrove, MD, president and CEO of Cleveland Clinic, touched on how his organization was dealing with big data through its spin-off Explorys, which ties together disparate healthcare data from providers, payers, care settings and EMRs. The goal of Explorys is to help the Cleveland Clinic and other healthcare organizations manage and make sense of big data: because data is only data, unless you know how to utilize it to make improvements.

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You Get What You Pay For – There is More to Cost Than Price

Financial viability is the order of the day for hospitals and health systems. However, when looking for savings, a service or item that is the cheapest is not necessarily the lowest cost.

A recent HealthLeaders’ article, “Find Deeper Healthcare Supply Chain Savings,” which I referenced last week, looked at what a number of systems are doing in order to reduce costs in their supply chain. Main Line Health (MLH), a 1,295-bed health system with $1.4 billion in annual operating revenue was featured in the article because it has undergone an organization-wide initiative to reduce supply chain spending.

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When the Low Hanging Fruit Has Been Picked, What’s Next? Value!

New reimbursement models have forced hospitals and health systems to go after all of the low hanging expenses they can. But cost-cutting alone—stuff and staff—will not produce the total savings needed. A recent article in HealthLeaders points out that successful healthcare organizations are taking a much closer look at their supply chain in order to create strategic savings opportunities.

In the article, Steve Cashton, director of purchasing and contracting at Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, says, “You really can’t cut your way to success by reducing staff so we started looking at where we can improve our margins with the supply chain.”

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Create New Organizational Structure to Successfully Reduce Costs

Annual cost reduction targets have most healthcare organizations scrambling. Despite concerted efforts, many internal cost reduction initiatives “fail to produce the level of savings required” as Liz Kirk writes in Healthcare Finance News.

Why is that? Many factors can contribute to the success or failure of an organization to achieve savings’ goals, but the most common mistake is not taking a holistic approach. Ms. Kirk contends that rather than a conventional cost reduction approach lead by the CFO, a successful initiative should include the financial and operational senior leaders, as well as support teams and cost leaders. The key is to effectively balance quality and patient satisfaction with savings.

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Sustainability for Successful Healthcare Management

Traditionally, when we hear the word “sustainability,” it conjures up ideas of the health of the environment and the idea of “going green.” And that is clearly a very large part of the sustainability movement, but the concept of sustainability extends further.

MedSpeed is a member of Practice Greenhealth, a not-for profit organization whose mission is to be “the source for environmental solutions for the healthcare sector that lends support to create better, safer, greener workplaces and communities.” Earlier this year, Laura Wenger, Executive Director of Practice Greenhealth wrote, “Sustainability isn’t just about environmental stewardship. As the [health] sector faces increased financial pressures, more hospitals and health care facilities should prioritize sustainability as a way to strategically manage rising costs.”

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