By Emily De Oliveira
The annual Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) conference was held in Denver, Colorado from June 26-29, and what a jam-packed four days it was! With lots of networking opportunities, diverse content tracks and hundreds of exhibitors, I left the conference energized and full of valuable learnings and ideas.
The content tracks covered accounting and finance, cost-effectiveness of health, leadership and workforce development, revenue cycle, business strategy, data and analytics, and payment and care delivery models—all of which contributed to an overarching theme of how to sustainably deliver better health outcomes.
Throughout every session and the conversations in between, the conference attendees’, speakers’ and vendors’ passion for improving healthcare consistently shone through.
Here are some key takeaways from the sessions I attended and my conversations with other conference-goers.
1. Patients are consumers, too
One major topic of discussion was patient consumerism. In healthcare, consumers have been faced with issues with affordability, administrative complexities and a fragmented experience communicating with their healthcare providers and the payors. Many sessions discussed the critical need for innovative solutions and automation to improve revenue cycle operations, increase price transparency and boost the patient experience.
Speakers shared their experience streamlining clinical, financial and operational aspects of the patient’s care journey into one unified experience. Optimizing the consumer journey is certainly a win-win: Patients will have a better care experience and providers can increase collections and revenue cycle efficiency.
2. Increasing health equity remains a challenge
Another theme centered on the social determinants of health, which include social and cultural factors that impact access to quality healthcare.
Healthcare providers are focused on increasing equity and improving population-based models of care. In the opening general session on reframing healthcare and creating disruptive change, the speakers discussed how addressing the social determinants of health can help to reduce the overall cost of care.
Other sessions provided strategies and tactics to better deliver care to patients in underserved populations while maintaining financial sustainability. Addressing the social determinants of health has been a widely discussed topic over the last few years. For our take on this topic, read our blog about diversity in social identity and healthcare.
3. Consolidation isn’t slowing down
Across many sessions, it was clear that mergers & acquisitions will continue to shape care delivery patterns. In one talk about how Phoenix Children’s transitioned from the pandemic to a stronger position for financial, operational and investment success, the speakers discussed how the strength of participants in M&A deals has increased. In other words, stronger organizations with more strategic synergies are increasingly involved in these deals.
There were many lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts anticipate new partnerships will likely aim to increase scale, refocus resources on core markets or services, add new capabilities and meet consumer demands for new or improved services.
4. Value-based care is on the rise
Another theme from the conference was growth in value-based care. Healthcare providers are seeing a continuous increase in the proportion of healthcare payments made through value-based arrangements.
Many sessions discussed the challenges facing care management programs under a value-based model, as well as the strategies that can make these programs successful.
For example, one health system found that having nurses follow up as care managers after discharge reduced readmissions by 30%. Additionally, the health system found using patient engagement platforms, remote patient monitoring and other programs that engage, motivate and educate patients outside of the clinical care setting resulted in lower costs, improved outcomes and enabled healthcare professionals to deliver better care.
5. Hospital-at-Home programs show early successes
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the Hospitals without Walls program in 2020, which improves regulatory flexibility and allows hospitals to provide services beyond their traditional brick-and-mortar settings. The Acute Hospital Care at Home program is an expansion of this program.
In a fascinating panel, we learned how the Mayo Clinic, OSF HealthCare and Yale New Haven Health implemented their Hospital-at-Home (HAH) programs. One highlight for me was an extremely powerful video testimonial of the patients enrolled in the Mayo Clinic’s HAH program.
Providers implemented this care delivery model primarily to address issues with capacity and reduce readmissions. As they shared their experience planning and implementing these programs, they discussed the need for a strong technology infrastructure, a decentralized medical command center for healthcare providers to check in with patients, and appropriate patient selection.
6. Staffing challenges continue
Since the pandemic, labor shortages across the country have been a national topic, so it was no surprise that this was a major theme at the conference as well. Many sessions discussed the financial strain labor shortages have had on healthcare providers and how leveraging efficient workforce strategies is essential to cost management and meeting patient demands.
We’ve also been tracking this trend closely through a series of blog posts, which you can check out here:
It was exciting to see healthcare leaders not only provide their perspectives, but also share actionable tips that attendees could take home to help improve patient outcomes at their organizations. Across attendees, sessions and exhibitors, I sensed a unified energy and drive to improve the healthcare experience. Leveraging technology and healthcare commercial intelligence to address these themes will undoubtedly be a critical focus for healthcare companies and providers.
If you missed us at HFMA or want to learn more about how you can use our healthcare commercial intelligence at your organization, start a free trial today.