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Not just number crunchers: How healthcare CFOs' roles are evolving

CFOs in the health system have a reputation for being adept at math and for taking good care of the assets that belong to their respective organizations. Although these are still the main duties of a modern CFO, strategy and transformation are playing a bigger part in their work. 

According to Vincent Tammaro, CFO and vice president for health sciences at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, “My role over the last few years has evolved to more of a strategist and a catalyst,” he told Becker’s.

From a strategic perspective, more CFOs are witnessing a change in their responsibilities, with an increased focus on technology and innovation.

“As we continue to grow, my role has evolved to focus on investments we will need to make in terms of our workforce, facilities, technology, areas of growth and alternative revenue streams,” said Tammaro.

For OSU Wexner Medical Center, a seven-hospital system, specialty pharmacy has grown to be a substantial alternative income stream alongside home care, hospital-at-home, and durable medical equipment services.

“These are all nontraditional big health system services that are becoming a large part of our overall revenue stream as part of our diversification strategy,” said Tammaro. “It’s still giving our patients top-notch treatment; it simply takes place beyond the hospital’s four walls now. It is infiltrating both the homes of patients and the community.”

A growing number of CFOs are also taking the lead in health system planning, driving transformation and directing the direction of their companies. A large portion of the current state of healthcare is determined by how health systems use emerging technologies.

“Some of the technology around remote patient monitoring and remote therapy monitoring are great examples of how we’re engaging with patients in different ways, how we’re addressing gaps in care and the transition of care for our patients,” said Tammaro. “Many of the academic medical centers continue to be fee for service, but we have to start evolving to value-based care delivery models and align payment models to reward the outcomes and metrics that we all agree to.”

Hospital executives are now more concerned with how they can increase now that the COVID-19 epidemic is in the past. Of the greatest significance to CFOs are the investments required to seize growth possibilities.

In light of this, Mr. Tammaro claimed that he now communicates with a minimum of one innovative digital healthcare startup each week.

“There are several staff shortages, payer pressure, narrow margins, and a lack of talent entering the market. Technology can help with this,” he stated. “There’s huge opportunities to scale, support patient care, automate clinical workflows and address gaps and transitions in patient care.”

Consumers are asking for convenient, individualized access to physicians via their cellphones, and technology is probably going to push healthcare even closer to the “shopping era.” The competition between healthcare providers will increase in line with the growth of healthcare consumerism. Those who don’t stay up to date with emerging trends and technologies risk falling behind.

Recent years have seen a high rate of technology innovation in the healthcare sector, with artificial intelligence in particular sweeping the sector. Particularly difficult and time-consuming administrative jobs like coding, billing, and prior permission procedures have a lot of potential for AI.

“As an example, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be using AI to do prior auths,” stated Tammaro. “A team of 80 to 100 individuals works on this today throughout the system. Those 80 to 100 employees are still necessary, but they would be better off working on other, more valuable aspects of the company rather than investigating pointless previous authentication. That doesn’t bring us any new income; it just lets us keep the money we have made.”

With the growing popularity of new technology, treatment alternatives, and AI models, providers have a big chance to enhance the patient experience and ease of access to care.

“Today’s healthcare system is very fragmented and confusing for a patient to navigate, but with technology we have a tremendous opportunity to really improve that experience,” said Tammaro. “I truly believe these are exciting times in healthcare, and we have a tremendous opportunity to transform how we engage our patients and how they experience their care.”

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