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Hospital CFOs should be more nimble, leverage technology, says Kaufman Hall

Just 14 percent of survey respondents felt prepared to manage the financial impact of healthcare reform.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

As the role of the hospital chief financial officer changes to adapt to reimbursement changes in healthcare, a new survey found 91 percent of global CFOs and and senior finance professionals think their organization should be doing more with data to inform their strategic decisions.

The survey, by management consulting firm Kaufman Hall, found that many modern CFOs are building teams that are well-versed in technology, going beyond financials to utilize the kind of data that gives a broader, 360-degree view of their organizations.

In a rapidly changing industry, staying nimble is paramount, but of the 350-plus respondents, just 14 percent felt prepared to manage the financial impact of healthcare reform with their current planning processes and tools. Nineteen percent describe themselves "very confident" in their team's ability to make quick adjustments if business circumstances suddenly change, while just 22 percent say they're modeling alternative scenarios in order to be prepared.

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The most critical performance management initiatives for 2017, according to the respondents, are: operational budgeting and forecasting; providing more insightful reporting and analysis to support decision making; cost containment and efficiency; and capital planning and tracking. But 55 percent said that resource constraints were the biggest hurdles to achieving these ends. Outdated processes and insufficient tools, at 50 and 40 percent respectively, followed closely behind.

Understanding the cost of care is of prime importance, with 62 percent indicating that managing cost reduction initiatives is the most important financial performance management activity across their organization. Yet 65 percent don't have any cost measurement tools in place, or else their tools and too simplistic or inaccurate.

Operational and management reporting comes with their own challenges. Kaufman Hall found that a miniscule 3 percent say they are "very satisfied" with the quality of reporting within their organization. Often, technology is the underlying issue here. Seventy-two percent said they struggle to pull data from multiple sources into a single report, while 69 percent need better dashboards and visualization.

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Optimizing the budget cycle often takes too long, the survey found. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said their budgeting process takes longer than three months, calling into question whether the final inputs are still accurate by the time the budget is approved.

Tackling some of these challenges, according to Kaufman Hall, will require embracing modern performance management practices -- cost accounting, scenario modeling and the like -- combined with a greater emphasis on data analysis.

The survey was conducted from Oct. 3 through Oct, 14.

Twitter: @JELagasse

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