"Risk-takers" is not a phrase I would generally use when writing about financial leaders at healthcare institutions. But this year the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) seems to be encouraging this behavior.
HFMA Vice President of Education Tom Nelson told me in an exclusive interview that the theme of this year's Annual National Institute is “Out of the Box” and that the 80 or so presenters at this year's event are following that path. They were chosen out of nearly 300 proposals, a significant increase compared to prior years, according to Nelson.
“For those trained in finance in general with an accounting background, one of the first tenets of accounting is to be conservative and not take risks or be risk adverse,” he told me. The intent of the presentations is to get attendees to think outside the box and perhaps even take some sensible risks they might be comfortable with, he added.
Perhaps the Las Vegas setting may help to encourage some of this risk taking.
“Whether it's regulatory changes, or thinking about an innovative type of approach, or mergers and acquisitions, or new technology, anybody within the healthcare continuum can do it, even if they're a smaller rural critical access hospital or a physician clinic and not the largest healthcare system,” Nelson said.
Many of the sessions this year are focused on patient satisfaction and communication. One example is a presentation by Vivian Lee, M.D., a senior vice president of health sciences at the University of Utah healthcare system entitled “A Better Way Toward Patient-Centered Care.” Nelson said that session will “reinforce how important it is to listen to the patient and their expectations.” Nelson said that there would be other sessions focused on providing resources for patients trying to figure out how to pay their bills as opposed to getting as much money out of them.
This is encouraging considering last year a session ostensibly presented as being about communicating with patients and improving customer service was actually about tape recording patient phone calls in order to improve collections prior to medical procedures
If the HFMA and its hospital clients are moving further toward sensitive and informed financial interactions with their patients that are not all about the bottom line, it will definitely be refreshing and worth the risk.
The troubling patient collections approach I encountered at HFMA ANI