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HFMA Conference News

Report From Vegas: Can’t Afford to Take a Crapshoot
With the Bottom Line

By Paul Weygandt, MD, JD

This year’s Healthcare Financial Management Association ANI conference was held in Las Vegas, and the irony of the location choice wasn’t lost on attendees. With frequent regulatory changes, it seems as though health care administrative teams have been forced into a card game—and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Over the last three years, I’ve seen some hospitals hold and others fold. Despite the tumult, this year’s conference revealed a renewed sense of purpose, and participants were prepared with a laser focus on finding the right knowledge, strategies, and approaches for their distinct organizational needs and challenges.

After talking with attendees, two things were evident: The days of siloed decision making are over. We’re not going to effectively implement changes in a vacuum (and we can’t afford to) so cross-organizational education and collaboration are key. And it’s not just about increasing revenue, it’s about making quality improvements and driving better care.

When the health care industry set out on the meaningful use journey and achieving the associated regulatory mandates, it had no way of knowing all the hurdles and challenges it would face, and it created a divide within health care organizations based on misunderstandings. Decisions were made without complete stakeholder input, which, in hindsight, made buy-in and process adoption a crapshoot. As a result, we have seen our already-stressed industry begin to buckle, which could impact on our communities’ health.

To echo one of the sentiments of Atul Gawande, MD, during his keynote address, how do we make health care more accessible to not only our patients but to our colleagues as well? The barriers between departments, hospitals, and facilities need to be disassembled. The heart of great health care is made up of open communication. And over the last year or so, we have begun to see tears sutured as administrative teams work in lockstep with their clinical team partners to determine the best approaches to areas such as the ICD-10 delay, and strategies and technologies for improving communication, workflows, and, most importantly, patient care.

It’s clear that the results of the past conflicts and tension have created a much-needed heightened awareness of both physician needs and the importance of maintaining financial integrity. We’re coming together around the shared understanding that communication is part of the answer to Gawande’s question, and things such as accurate documentation capture lead to better patient care as well as the appropriate reimbursement that’s needed to continue delivering that quality care.

Walking around the showroom floor, I realized that just as we’re approaching a new era of personalized care with engaged patients and health information exchanges, on the administrative side, we’re beginning to see a new type of leadership integration where C-suite leaders, both clinical and administrative, actively collaborate on the future of patient care and of their organizations. The result of this collaboration will be investments that make sense from all perspectives: patient, clinical, technological, administrative, and financial. That vision of improved quality care and the ability to better manage population health with the aid of the right solutions was, without a doubt, on the minds of ANI attendees this year.

— Paul Weygandt, MD, JD, is vice president of physician services for Nuance Communications.