How CFOs Can Improve Clinical Outcomes

Jeff Elliott for HealthLeaders Media , September 27, 2010

So BFF (best friends forever in text-speak) might be a stretch, but CFOs and medical officers are finding common ground in the fact that improved clinical outcomes equals improved financial results.

Hospitals, though, still struggle to get paid all they are owed for the care they deliver. What's the problem? Prior to P4P, data quality was important, but not of the magnitude it is today, Webb says. "Now that quality outcomes—mortality, morbidity, length of stay and even medical necessity—are being watched more closely, hospitals are challenged to thoroughly and accurately explain why a patient is in the hospital and justify their treatment plan."

Enter the electronic health record system (EHR), or more specifically, the quality of data in these systems. Many organizations believed that an EHR would solve all their data integrity issues, according to Webb. "At the end of the day, data that's in the EHR comes from the work individuals have done. If it's not being captured accurately, hospitals are at a disadvantage from the start. Now it's more than a clinical issue, it's financial."

Webb adds the caveat that it's likely not a coding issue, even though the blame often lands here. Rather, the problem is in the quality of clinical information, largely because physicians often have not been taught how to document well. "There must be an effort to ensure the clinical information that physicians' document also drive the best financial results," she says.

It's for this reason that financial leaders must take a more proactive stance on performance improvement as it applies to documentation. "If I were a CFO, I would insert myself some way or another into these issues to bring the hospital's business component to physicians," Webb says. "So focused are physicians on patient care, they often are not tuned into the business aspects.

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