3 Tactics Hospital Finance Directors Need to Amp Up Reports

January 28, 2016

Hospital_ExecutivesWhat does it take to captivate an audience? Director Ridley Scott knows. He may have been snubbed by 2016’s Oscar voters, but his film, “The Martian” received a “Best Picture” nomination and won the hearts of critics and movie-goers alike. That says a lot, considering most of the film revolves around a lone astronaut, stranded in the unrelentingly dull and rocky landscape of Mars. And that made me wonder, what would it take to make a hospital finance report captivating enough that the C-suite would sit up and take notice? This isn’t a suggestion for you to recruit Matt Damon for your next presentation to the C-suite. Instead, hospital finance directors might want to think more like a movie director — or a savvy marketer — when it comes to bringing finance reports to life.

Your hospital’s C-Suite needs insight.

The pace of change in the healthcare landscape will only accelerate as we continue down the path of healthcare reform. In order to support the level of strategic planning needed to not just withstand, but thrive, in this environment of constant change, your C-Suite needs to fully engage with the financial information you have to share. They need insights to understand how best to respond to the demands to:

  • Transition from fee-for-service to value-based reimbursement models
  • Engage in proactive population health management
  • Meet the shifting expectations of healthcare consumers
  • Continuously innovate to improve patient engagement, outcomes and satisfaction

All while investing in the personnel, infrastructure and technologies needed to sustain growth.

Are your current finance reports facilitating those types of insights? Not if they aren’t being read— or, in the case of presentations, being heard. You aren’t alone in experiencing this type of challenge. Fast Company cites a Project Management Institute study which found that the reason that 44 percent of strategic initiatives fail is a lack of organizational alignment. Clearly, getting everyone on the same page presents a challenge, and a dry finance report doesn’t help.

Make your hospital finance reports more engrossing.

More than 50 years ago, journalist and author William H. Whyte wrote an article for Fortune in which he said, “The great enemy of communication, we find, is the illusion of it.” When you hand off a finance report to the C-suite, you believe you’re communicating what hospital leaders need to know to make decisions. Unfortunately, hospital leaders’ attention spans are fragmented, overwhelmed by an almost constant flood of information. If you want your report to stand out in the crowd — and get across the insights they need to arrive at good decisions — you might want to try these tactics:

1. Communicate in the C-suite’s language. Departmental jargon is fine — in your department — but reports going to the C-suite should eschew obscure acronyms and superfluous details for a clear, concise presentation of only the most relevant data. Given all of the other information they need to process, your C-suite will appreciate your brevity. In addition, tap into your inner storyteller. When you can show how the data you’re sharing aligns with organizational goals, now and in the future, the C-suite will take notice. Otherwise, you’re competing for mindshare against the many other concerns that hospital leaders have. 

2. Speak to the C-suite’s pain points. It’s standard practice in marketing to develop personas that reflect their ideal customers. By defining the problems that these customers need to solve, marketers can fine tune their communication to address these needs, and in doing so, more effectively capture their attention. Does your report address the challenges the C-suite faces? Research service firm peer60 surveyed hospital leaders to learn what keeps them up at night, and the study, “Into the Minds of the C-Suite,” identified the top concerns of hospital CEOs, CFOs, CIOs and others.

  • 64 percent – moving to value-based reimbursement models

  • 56 percent – effective care coordination

  • 54 percent – managing patient populations

  • 48 percent – improving patient engagement efforts

  • 47 percent – dealing with physician and nurse shortages

  • 36 percent – data management

  • 33 percent – regulatory compliance

  • 31 percent – making a return on IT investments

  • 30 percent – mitigating data security risks

  • 18 percent – reducing hospital-acquired infections

  • 11 percent – mergers and acquisitions

They definitely have a lot on their minds.  When you provide relevant, actionable insights offering solutions for these woes, such identifying bundled-payment opportunities or data trends about utilization that can lead to optimized staffing, you provide greater motivation to pay attention to your reports. 

3. Connect the dots. Seeing the big picture among myriad data points or reading lengthy explanations of data takes time, a valuable commodity for members of the C-suite. To make the data more compelling, easier to understand and faster to process, you need to incorporate data visualization. We’ve all heard the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It turns out, that’s true. Data visualization offers numerous benefits.  In addition to making dry data more palatable, research has shown that the brain processes visual information significantly faster than it does text. And, those visuals are more memorable than text too. Beyond those immediate benefits in terms of winning the attention of a C-suite audience, data visualization enhances your ability to highlight emerging reimbursements trends, show patterns related to operational performance and share other insights that the C-suite will find interesting. Writing on his blog, healthcare analytics specialist Trevor Strome says, “data visualization is one of the key principles that contribute to effective decision-making in healthcare organizations.” And you don’t need the skills of Picasso to create data visualizations. Look for business intelligence tools that incorporate analytics visualization tools or follow these simple suggestions:

  • Create visualizations that answer specific questions that the C-suite wants answered.
  • Pick a visualization style that is appropriate for both the data that you’re using and the message you want to get across.
  • Provide the details that will make the data visualization easy to understand.
  • Use color to convey meaning. We all know that red means stop, green means go and yellow means caution. By using colors to help tell the visual story, you bring attention to key information immediately.

Not sure how to translate those numbers into charts, graphs or infographics yourself? There are plenty of tools available on the web to jump start your creative juices so that you can make your next hospital finance report pop.

A few years ago, Harvard Business Review published an article on innovation entitled, “Sometimes the Best Ideas Come from Outside Your Industry.” The article offered the example of an innovation from 3M. The company came up with a “breakthrough concept for preventing infections associated with surgery” after it consulted with a theatrical-makeup specialist. These days, hospitals consult with Disney and Ritz-Carlton about patient experience. New Orleans-based Ochsner Health System took inspiration from Apple when creating its O-bar to help patients leverage digital health tools. Before you hand off your next hospital finance report to the C-suite, get inspired by tactics used outside the healthcare industry.  By pushing the envelope when it comes to presenting hospital finance data, you’ll improve your prospects for really engaging the C-suite in a way that will positively impact strategic planning for your hospital. So, think like a marketer — or if you’re feeling really adventurous, like Ridley Scott — your audience will appreciate the effort.

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