Recently, HealthLeaders hosted its first ‘Virtual Happy Hour CFO Roundtable’ sponsored by Nuance, gathering executives to address the financial and technological challenges facing the health system during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The hour-long roundtable brought together healthcare executives from provider organizations ranging across the East Coast to the Midwest to delve into two key strategic topics for hospital finance leaders: diversifying revenue generators and pursuing digital transformation.
The sudden outbreak of coronavirus during the spring of 2020 destabilized the entire American economy, with an acute impact on the healthcare industry. Throughout the pandemic, hospitals and health systems have seen the damage that occurs when a major revenue generator like elective surgeries gets taken offline.
The participating CFOs discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their respective approaches to capital diversification and if their investment strategies have been altered on a go-forward basis.
Executives said they have been looking at opportunities both inside and outside the hospital to deliver care during these unprecedented times.
The conversation also examined the importance of technology and artificial intelligence (AI) as a means for adapting to rapidly changing circumstances in the provider sector and establishing capabilities to meet shifting patient expectations.
A cornerstone of the discussion centered around the rise of telehealth and its longevity as a care delivery option as well as a potential revenue stream. While executives acknowledged there were significant time and labor invested in standing up the right telehealth infrastructure, hospitals across the country have been able to offer their patients more comprehensive access to care than they had prior to the pandemic.
Most attendees noted that while telehealth usage has leveled off over the past few months after hitting record highs in the spring, consumers have come to expect virtual care services to be available. There was also a shared belief among panelists that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) would maintain waivers that have helped to mainstream the popularity of telemedicine.
A common concern among the group of hospital leaders was the dilemma of what to do with real estate investments and new construction projects as the world goes more digital. As more people get vaccinated, there will be gravitation and trust among patients to return to the doctor’s office for care, but there remains a question about how many will come back and whether those brick-and-mortar holdings can be reevaluated.
Beyond utilizing AI as a way to drive clinical integration efforts for the hospital, leaders highlighted the use of technology to make revenue cycle operations more efficient. Another changing dynamic that was discussed was the increase in remote work, both in terms of what it means for gauging an organization’s productivity but also for recruiting workers from outside of the immediate area surrounding a hospital or health system.
Towards the end of the event, there was a discussion about the expectations for ambient clinical intelligence and what effects it could have on patient experience and physician burnout. Executives on the panel recognized the opportunities for AI to bridge the communication gap between patients and physicians.