Finance in health care needs strategic focus centred on quality of care

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Health care dominates government financial strategy like no other sector and it’s a top-of-mind concern for taxpayers and patients, so it’s no surprise any news about funding changes instantly gets people’s attention.

Recent announcements about changes to provincial health care funding are no exception and in addition to the public reaction, it has healthcare leaders across the province trying to process the implications for their organizations.

Brian Edmonds has seen it all before. As a facilitator for SEEC’s Masters Certificate in Healthcare Management his role is to share his experience as a CFO, most of it with organizations facing serious financial challenges.

“We’ve been at this tight-money in healthcare thing for years,” says Edmonds, “the low-hanging fruit is long gone and we’re now at the top of the tree. We need different tools to deal with things like change management, technology and new processes. We’re trying to do the hard stuff now.”

The essential problem, Edmonds explains, is that healthcare funding is dominated by a philosophy of budget driving strategy. “We need to look at turning that around so strategy drives budget. We need to figure out ways to surface ideas and change the conversation.”

At the core of it all, says Edmonds, is quality of patient care, which, he argues, should be everyone’s strategic focus, including government, accountants like him, frontline staff in the province’s hospitals and, increasingly, community organizations involved in after-care and the new focus on health-care teams and integration.

“We long ago transcended counting paper clips – now it’s about quality of the process,” Edmonds says. “If it breaks down, that’s inefficient for the patient and we can also find a financial benefit. We can apply that to hospital care and transitioning our patients to after care, working with partner organizations.”

The final module of the program, Financing and Implementing Your Strategy, is the one in which Edmonds shares his experience and leads participants through various strategies for not only doing more with less but learning how government funding works and how to turn that to advantage when looking for improvements to patient care.

As much as he takes a glass-half-full approach, Edmonds admits the system can be quirky and discouraging when it comes to hot-button issues, such as wait times and patients in hallways, but there are ways to move forward. “We don’t want patients in the hallways either,” he says.

The key to “doing the hard stuff” is for healthcare managers to broaden their skill set by learning about how the system works, how innovation and new ideas can help, and how organizations cope with managing change – while always being guided by the search for better quality patient care.

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The content of this story comes from an interview with Brian Edmonds, vice -president, support services and CFO at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), who is a facilitator specializing in finance in SEEC’s Masters Certificate in Healthcare Management (starting Feb. 28, 2020).

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