3 big lessons from the 2023 Kodiak Healthcare Summit

Nicole Reinhart
| 11/10/2023
Kodiak Solutions

What lessons did healthcare finance leaders learn that will set them up for success in 2024? This year’s Healthcare Summit in Nashville had plenty.

What do you think of first when you hear the word “hindsight”?

For many, the first thing that might come to mind is the Kodiak RCA net revenue reporting platform. Hindsight is a powerful tool embedded in RCA that lets users trend data and compare past and present results of important net revenue and revenue cycle performance measures to improve the speed and accuracy of the month-end close process.

For others, the first thing that might come to mind is the expression “hindsight is 20/20.” Perfect vision occurs after the fact into what went wrong, how something could have been done better, or how a problem could have been avoided in the first place.

Either way, the most important part of hindsight is using lessons learned to make the future better and brighter.

Examples of healthcare finance leaders doing just that coursed through the 13th annual Kodiak Healthcare Summit held Sept. 17-21, 2023, in Nashville, Tennessee. They’re looking back at what they learned during the pandemic years of 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 to look ahead to 2024 and improve the future financially for their respective healthcare organizations.

Here are examples of how leaders will be applying three major lessons learned in the year ahead.

Proactively challenging unfair payor claims-paying behaviors

Data from the Revenue Cycle Analytics solution over the past four years tells us that payors are denying more claims, delaying more claims, and paying less per claim than the billed amount. You can learn more about this trend by downloading our most recent quarterly revenue cycle KPI benchmarking report, “10 Best and Worst States for Provider Claims Payment.” Those claims-paying behaviors vary by payor, by type of payor, by type of denial, and even by day of the month or time of day.

Rather than taking a passive approach in dealing with such fickle behaviors, providers are now taking a proactive approach supported by data.

That new approach was on full display at the opening keynote panel discussion at Healthcare Summit, “Going on Offense: Mapping Success for the Year Ahead.”

For instance, Aaron Stapp, system vice president, revenue cycle at CommonSpirit Health, said he’s using objective data generated by Kodiak RCA to determine whether a revenue cycle issue is the result of an internal performance problem or a payor’s claims-paying behavior. He said that if it’s the payor, he can take that data and proactively address and ideally rectify the problem directly with the payor.

Joanne Alig, senior vice president, public policy at the Wisconsin Hospital Association, who joined Stapp on stage during the keynote’s panel discussion, said she’s using objective data from Kodiak RCA in her advocacy work. Specifically, she’s using the data when she speaks to policymakers, lawmakers, and regulators in the state about encouraging payors in the state to pay provider claims accurately and on time.

James Porter, vice president of finance at ThedaCare, amplified those sentiments during the closing keynote session at Healthcare Summit. He said the battles with payors are never going away, and his system has decided to attack payors’ claims-paying behaviors head-on, like buffalos facing into the wind during a subzero snowstorm rather than running and hiding from trouble.

Converting pandemic-driven staffing challenges into opportunities

The pandemic wreaked havoc not only on providers’ balance sheets but also on the finance and revenue cycle departments responsible for those balance sheets. Working from home was a forced staffing pain point.

But, as noted by several Healthcare Summit presenters, many healthcare finance leaders have converted that forced staffing pain point into a full range of opportunities to improve how their departments function and work together. It was a lesson in looking back to look forward.

For example, Rick Carrico, the CFO at Baptist Health, who spoke at the closing keynote, said when he joined Baptist about a year ago, 100% of the finance and revenue cycle departments he oversaw were remote. Carrico said the situation forced him to elevate his level of trust in his teams to do their jobs and do them well without having his staff physically present on the same floor or in the same building. He said his teams rose to the occasion, integrating systems and improving communications – two competencies that will serve Baptist well in the future.

Mendy-Sue Drew, assistant vice president of accounting operations at Scripps Health, also said trust was a positive unintended consequence of the pandemic’s work-from-home necessity. She presented at one of Healthcare Summit’s many breakout sessions and said that you have to trust your people and your technology to do the right thing, and when it clicks, you don’t have to worry. She also used the phrase “sleepervising” to describe her management style when things go as planned.

Jennie Rhoads, manager of revenue recognition at Geisinger Health, said the work-from-home necessity created the opportunity for Geisinger to reorganize its financial operations. Before it went to permanently working from home in 2021, the system ran four regional finance teams, each with its own way of doing things, said Rhoads, who also spoke at a Healthcare Summit breakout session. With geographic barriers ended, the system has been reorganizing its financial operations around tasks and functions irrespective of geographic location. Each task or function team follows the same set of accounting, reporting, and revenue cycle rules, setting up the entire health system for success in 2024.

Reimagining the future role of the healthcare CFO

Perhaps the biggest lesson learned in looking back to look forward was on the changing role of the healthcare CFO. The past four years forced CFOs into many new and different roles as their organizations scrambled to respond to the challenges imposed by the pandemic.

One look at the second iteration of the healthcare CFO mind map, unveiled at Healthcare Summit, offers an idea of what’s been piled onto the plates of healthcare CFOs across the country.

Cecelia Moore, the CFO at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the role of the CFO is evolving to include more direct involvement in business arrangements and partnerships, whether they’re with vendors, suppliers, technology companies, other providers, or physicians. Moore spoke on a CFO panel at the closing Healthcare Summit keynote and said that direct involvement will demand soft skill sets like communications and consensus-building in addition to hard skill sets like analytics to know whether a deal or partnership makes sense today and will make sense tomorrow.

In addition, CFOs are stepping back from their traditional role of being the bearers of bad news and recommending tough steps to get their organizations back in line with their budgets.

Amy Hatcher, the CFO at Children’s Nebraska, who also spoke on the CFO panel during the closing keynote, said she’s flipped the script at her organization. Hatcher said she’s charged her staff with generating solutions to budget issues, though she acknowledged that it’s “really weird” to sit in the audience, listening to financial results and budget ideas rather than the other way around. Hatcher said she’ll get over it as her staff is excited and energized to work across teams and departments for the future success of the hospital.

Similarly, but at a higher level, it’s the CFO who reports financial results to the chief operating officer (COO), and it’s the COO who shares the results and sets the tone for budget initiatives with the rest of the C-suite and the board at Baptist, Carrico said. Flipping that script requires a collaborative, not territorial, relationship between CFO and COO, he said. But again, the effort is worth it as Baptist needed a new approach to position the organization for success moving forward.

Moving forward. That’s what Kodiak Solutions is doing as it becomes an independent company spun off from the healthcare consulting practice of Crowe. It’s what healthcare finance leaders are doing as they take lessons learned from the past four years and apply them today to make 2024 as successful as possible.

Speaking of 2024, don’t forget to save the date for our 14th annual Kodiak Healthcare Summit to be held back at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel Sept. 23-26, 2024.

Save the date

2024 Kodiak Healthcare Summit
Renaissance Nashville Hotel
Sept. 23-26, 2024

Tell us about your experience at the 2023 Healthcare Summit in Nashville

Send us an email with your feedback and suggestions at [email protected].

Thank you from our 2023 Healthcare Summit event team.