Selection of a CFO is Sometimes Your Most Important Decision

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Ambler CFOHaving a complementary CEO and CFO has become a competitive advantage in the dynamic world of major hospitals.

Read health industry or business publications, and you’ll soon notice the name Amy Mansue. She’s the CEO of Children’s Specialized Hospital. NJSPOTLIGHT.com recently recognized Mansue as a “Top Healthcare Policy Analyst.” Plus NJBIZ includes CHILDREN’s SPECIALIZED Hospital on its list of “best places to work.” With an ever expanding geographic reach and 12 locations, CHILDREN’s SPECIALIZED Hospital’s services now include inpatient, outpatient, rehabilitation, long term care, medical day-care, early intervention, etc.

Mansue clearly leads the process of identifying opportunities for CHILDREN’s SPECIALIZED Hospital but is the first to point out that CFO Joseph Dobosh plays “an important role in the expansion.” Mansue particularly values that Dobosh is a “visionary.” 17% of the 1,200 fte report to CFO Dobosh.

TRINITAS CEO Gary Horan also speaks highly of their CFO, Karen Lumpp. “In this ever changing healthcare environment, a CEO needs a CFO with the background and expertise Karen brings to the table,” says Horan. TRINITAS is the result of combining Elizabeth, NJ’s three previously struggling hospitals. 10% of TRINITAS’s 2,000 FTE report to CFO Lumpp.

John Sheridan is the CEO, and Doug Shirley is the CFO of COOPER University Health Care in southern New Jersey. 400 of COOPER employees in this $900 Mil/yr entity report to CFO Shirley. Well known for its trauma center, COOPER has expanded dramatically over the past several years. “We recognized the need to increase our access to clinical trials,” said CFO Shirley. COOPER had already looked at 4-5 leading cancer hospitals when MD Anderson contacted COOPER. CFO Shirley played a key role in deal structure and making sure managed care rates were in place during the creation of the recently opened $100 Mil MD Anderson COOPER Cancer Center. “The two-way due diligence process spanned about a year,” said CFO Shirley.

These CEOs and CFOs agree that today’s hospital-based CFO must have extensive experience handling major projects. The CFO doesn’t just “crunch numbers” any more. Dobosh, Lumpp and Shirley all view their CFO role as predominantly focused on major strategic initiatives. It is very telling that these hospital CFOs view ICD 10 compliance as a “short term project.” CFO Lumpp shared that hospitals complying with ICD 10 coding by October 1, 2014 involves “quadruple the information, a big learning curve and dual coding.” CFO Dobosh shared that the project to transform hospital records to a MediTech paperless system involved “a few years and less than $6 Mil.” Clearly, changes in coding and going paperless would have been viewed as major projects for a CFO not very long ago. When CFO Shirley isn’t structuring a joint venture with the #1 hospital in the country, he is leading COOPER’s Lean Six Sigma initiative or teaching niche surgeons about supply costs. When CFO Dobosh isn’t structuring the financing for a new service and/or location, he is “retiring debt, refinancing to direct placement or thinking about Triple-B bonds.”

Clearly, today’s hospital-based CFO must have strong communication skills. No longer do CEOs and board executive committees consider strategic options and then consult the CFO. The CFO is “at the table.” Hospital CFOs are expected to make frequent presentations at executive team and board meetings. It can take as long as five years for a CFO to earn trust in a hospital setting, so the CFO must demonstrate that he/she is motivated to help find ways to help other professionals use state of the art technology, treatment techniques, etc. Today’s CFO cannot sound like a negative bean counter.

Perhaps more than in any other industry, health care-based CFOs must be level headed and accept that the rules will constantly change. CFO Lumpp says that hospital CFOs must “replace the word hospital with health care systems.” The reality is “by the time a brick-and-mortar project is built, it will already be out of date. Even insurance could collapse into a new system,” predicted CFO Lumpp. Apparently, she is correct given the recent headlines about Saint Barnabas’ plan to introduce its own health insurance plan.

It is a challenge given the limited time available, but health care-based CFOs must commit to continuous learning. CFO Shirley reads industry publications like Healthcare Financial Management (HFM) Magazine, Healthcare Executive, Modern Healthcare and HealthLeaders Magazine. CFO Lumpp warns that a health care CFO’s time can “too easily be chewed up by simplistic popular ideas that don’t consider the 40+ variables involved.” CFO Dobosh is convinced that his auditing background, experience as a referee for high school basketball and leadership level participation in the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) have helped him. He suggests that someone who is interested in becoming a health care-based CFO should “look for mentors and get experience handling major projects within the industry.”

Clearly one of the most important decisions made by a hospital CEO is the selection of the CFO.

About Aldonna Ambler:
Known as The Growth Strategist®, Aldonna Ambler built and grew a suite of companies to help midsized B2B companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability® A Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), Ambler has addressed over 2000 audiences and hosted a syndicated online talk show about growth strategies for 9 years. As a growth financing intermediary, Ambler raised over $1 Bil dollars for midsized companies. The winner of over 2 dozen prestigious national and statewide "entrepreneur of the year" awards, Ambler is available to speak about “profitable growth during any economy” and/or serve on the board of a growth-oriented privately-held company.

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