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September 21, 2022
David Burda
Economics Outcomes System Dynamics
4-Minute 4sight Blogs

Does Anyone Like Their CFO?

No matter who I’m interviewing, no matter what the topic, and I ask them what the biggest obstacle or barrier to doing X is, their answer invariably is the CFO. That is, unless I’m interviewing the CFO.

We need to be able to explain this to the CFO. We need to demonstrate the return on investment to the CFO. The CFO is not going to spend the money on it unless it generates revenue. Whether we build, buy or partner will be up to the CFO, depending on the cost. And so on.

The healthcare CFO has become the ultimate gatekeeper. He or she stands between success and failure. Between stagnation and innovation. Between the past and future.

At least, that’s what people tell me.

That’s why I was really interested in this new healthcare CFO survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. You can download the survey here.

Deloitte asked finance leaders, mostly CFOs and VPs of finance, working at 61 health systems and health plans about what they see as their biggest challenges and opportunities and how they’re preparing their organizations to succeed in the new healthcare economy driven by customer value and consumerism.

Here are a few of the results that support the idea that CFOs have their fingers in everything, not just on the pages in a financial statement.

First, 100 percent of the respondents cited “talent” as their top challenge.

“Most discussed viewing talent investments with the same rigor and importance as major capital expenditures,” Deloitte said. “This is a relatively new role for CFOs who, in the past, weren’t very involved in the details of nursing retention and staff shortages.”

In rank order, the respondents cited the following top talent initiatives in their organizations:

  • Increasing automation and digital technologies to address talent challenges (cited by 87 percent of the respondents)
  • Increasing workforce flexibility, e.g., option to choose virtual or hybrid model (cited by 79 percent of the respondents)
  • Increasing emphasis on well-being of clinical and non-clinical staff (cited by 77 percent of the respondents)
  • Increasing emphasis on talent reskilling (cited by 74 percent of the respondents)
  • Increasing contract employees, e.g., travel nurses (cited by 73 percent of the respondents)

Second, most CFOs said they’re highly involved in ESG (environmental, social and governance) and health equity initiatives at their organization.

  • 90 percent said they have a growing role in health equity
  • 79 percent said they have a growing role in ESG

Third, whether to invest in digital transformation, including in clinical areas, squarely is on the plate of healthcare CFOs. In rank order by increases in capital expenditure over the next three years are:

  • Digital technologies, e.g., virtual health, artificial intelligence, analytics, automation (79 percent)
  • Data and interoperability tools (59 percent)
  • Core business technologies, e.g., revenue cycle management, EMR, ERP (46 percent)
  • New building assets for hospitals (42 percent)
  • Equipment and fixtures (41 percent)
  • Venture investments in other businesses, e.g., startups (41 percent)
  • Repairs and renovation (33 percent)
  • New building assets for alternate care sites, e.g., urgent care, ambulatory, post-acute care (29 percent)
  • Mergers and acquisitions (28 percent)

CFOs are deciding whether physicians get new AI-powered clinical decision support technologies just as much as they are deciding how much to spend to fix up the physicians’ lounge. Now that’s power.

But, with great power comes great responsibility, as they say. Are today’s healthcare CFOs up for the task? I’m not so sure. It’s easier and less risky to say no. It’s harder and riskier to say yes. Most CFOs I know — and publishers, too — are risk-averse. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Thanks for reading.

About the Author

David Burda

David Burda began covering healthcare in 1983 and hasn’t stopped since. Dave writes this monthly column “Burda on Healthcare,” contributes weekly blog posts, manages our weekly newsletter 4sight Friday, and hosts our weekly Roundup podcast. Dave believes that healthcare is a business like any other business, and customers — patients — are king. If you do what’s right for patients, good business results will follow.

Dave’s personnel experiences with the healthcare system both as a patient and family caregiver have shaped his point of view. It’s also been shaped by covering the industry for 40 years as a reporter and editor. He worked at Modern Healthcare for 25 years, the last 11 as editor.

Prior to Modern Healthcare, he did stints at the American Medical Record Association (now AHIMA) and the American Hospital Association. After Modern Healthcare, he wrote a monthly column for Twin Cities Business explaining healthcare trends to a business audience, and he developed and executed content marketing plans for leading healthcare corporations as the editorial director for healthcare strategies at MSP Communications.

When he’s not reading and writing about healthcare, Dave spends his time riding the trails of DuPage County, IL, on his bike, tending his vegetable garden and daydreaming about being a lobster fisherman in Maine. He lives in Wheaton, IL, with his lovely wife of 40 years and his three children, none of whom want to be journalists or lobster fishermen.

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