Hospital CFOs as Quality Leaders

Elyas Bakhtiari, for HealthLeaders Media , August 16, 2010

A CFO looking at the bottom line is now not only concerned with costs and revenue growth, but also with poor communication among clinicians, hospital-acquired infections, patient follow-up, and a host of other quality issues. Documentation and measurement will also be front-of-mind, because that will be the basis for reimbursement. An organization with high-quality clinical care will not get paid for it if the documentation is poor.

Beyond Medicare pay-for-performance systems, many private payers are already paying a premium for higher quality, which is becoming a bargaining chip in contract negotiations.

On a practical level, that means CFOs and Chief Medical Officers and clinical improvement leaders will need to start attending more of the same meetings and reading more of the same literature, he says. In addition to financial spreadsheets, CFOs should be able to review case-mix index, acuity reporting, and other major metrics.

Does this mean financial leaders of the future will need a clinical background or will spend an equal amount of time focused on clinical issues? Probably not. But the silos need to be broken down, and communication between the two areas will need to improve.

The entire healthcare system is in the process of transforming based on the notion that money and quality are not only connected, but that one can influence the other. That means hospital CFOs will not only have to take more interest in quality improvement efforts under a new payment system; they will have to lead them.

Elyas Bakhtiari is a freelance editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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