4 Habits of Highly Effective Health Care Leaders in 2014

katherine-wattsThe Most Effective Leaders are Transforming Their Facilities

By Katherine G. Watts, CPA, CHC
Partner in Charge, Health Care
Twitter: @KathyWatts1960

Health care in 2014 is in a state of flux. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) Health Insurance Exchange Marketplace opened in October 2013 with a rough start that has still not gained traction. Meanwhile, Medicare and Medicaid are squeezing reimbursement. And there is a growing population paired with a shrinking supply of doctors. These are only a few of the challenges facing health care professionals this year.

So what are administrators doing to meet these challenges and transform their institutions to meet the new health care realities? For one thing, forward-thinking leaders are not sitting on the fence. They are accepting the reality of lower reimbursements – taking a hard look at old thinking and throwing it out if it doesn’t make sense anymore. Here are four habits of highly effective health care leaders:

#1 They don’t rely on cutting administrative costs as the sole budget fix

Most facilities have already trimmed payroll, changed food service providers, shared laundry facilities, and gone to cheaper disposable supplies. The savings needed to offset dwindling profits cannot be found by going back to the same well without compromising efficiency and, ultimately, care.

The fact is that health care is labor intensive. The demand for administrative personnel is actually rising, along with compensation. For example, our 2013 HORNE Medical Office Staff Salary Survey finds that the salary for an accounts receivable manager of a clinic has grown 20.5% over the past five years.

#2 They are laser-focused on improving delivery models

Forward-thinking health care leaders know that future delivery models will reward systems that drive out waste and provide high-quality care at a lower cost. They see that a large part of the cost problem is due to variation in care delivered at the clinical level. They are using data analytics to implement new processes that minimize variation, improve quality, reduce costs, and most importantly, take control of their futures during a time of massive and disruptive change.

#3 They integrate the interests of physicians and health care facilities

Highly effective health care leaders are throwing out old thinking about the relationship between physicians and hospitals. They see a day when reimbursements will be bundled and event-based. They are developing models that fairly compensate both physicians and facilities – with incentives to share risk and rewards for the right behaviors. Highly effective leaders know that it is only through collaboration between doctors and hospitals that quality will improve and costs reduce.

#4 They are changing the culture in their facilities

The health care system is so big, and the problems are so large, that some leaders may want to bury their heads in the sand and hope it all goes away. The highly effective leader realizes that culture change is one of the most difficult tasks they will ever face, and that status quo is not a viable strategy.

You can’t change people unless they want to change, so the first step is education. Highly effective health care leaders are helping clinicians, executives and administrative staff see that the hope in solving the cost conundrum lies in a more collaborative culture with shared risks and rewards.

The leaders to watch in 2014 are providing alternatives to status quo. They are creating a workplace where multidisciplinary teams come together and plan changes, do them in small tests, study their effects, and act upon the findings. Through repeated learning cycles, the teams will develop data-driven protocols that continually improve outcomes.

The most highly effective health care leaders in 2014 are transforming their facilities to meet the new realities of reimbursement and regulation. They are creating the kind of collaborative workplace that will lead to evidence-based care that better serves the population and cuts wasteful practices.

About the Author – Katherine Watts is the partner in charge of health care services for HORNE.  She leads a team of Certified Public Accountants and health care consultants providing services to physicians, medical groups, hospital systems, ambulatory surgery centers and other health care organizations as they develop strategies to meet today’s market demands. She has more than 25 years of experience providing assurance and tax services and has significant knowledge specifically in federal and state planning and compliance.

This article was originally published on HORNE Health Care Blog and is republished here with permission.