Ministry health system CFOs share knowledge through networking group

November 1, 2014

A group of Catholic health system chief financial officers that convenes roughly once a month to exchange information is encouraging their system, regional and facility chief financial officer colleagues across the ministry to join their knowledge-
sharing group.

The group of executives from about a dozen ministry organizations formed approximately two decades ago. They originally met face-to-face and now convene primarily by teleconference to discuss emerging issues and to share information on best practices in health care finance. Some topics are particular to Catholic health care, some are not.

Michael W. Cottrell, chief financial officer of Springfield, Ill.-based Hospital Sisters Health System, currently heads the Catholic System CFO group. He said "the best thing about the CFO group is the sharing on relevant topics. We address current, topical issues and brainstorm about how we're addressing them."

In recent years, health care reform has dominated discussion during the calls. Other hot topics have been charity care policies, investment performance and presumptive eligibility standards for charity care. Participants also have talked about how their organizations are using accountable care organization structures. And most recently they've been sharing best practices on how to improve the billing and payment experience for patients. They've also discussed the need for, and approaches to, price transparency in health care billing.

Often participants get an advocacy update from a CHA expert.

The chief financial officers who participate in the group also provide tools to one another, such as charity care policies, so others can learn from what they've done; and the officers share their experience, such as how they are leveraging population health data for organizational decision-making.

"Once CFOs are tied into this group, we can pick up the phone and call our colleagues in the group — we can talk to someone who's been where we are" when dealing with challenges, said Cottrell.

Angie Swearingen, vice president of finance and chief financial officer for St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington, W.Va., is part of the Catholic System CFO group. She said that, as part of a two-hospital system, she doesn't have a lot of internal peers with extensive financial expertise, as she would at a large system. She appreciates being able to query other members of the CFO group about how they're handling particular matters. "It's a very responsive group. It is not unusual for me to get 14 or 15 responses by the end of the day (to group emails). To be able to reach out to a group that is so responsive and so transparent in their thoughts and what they're doing is truly incredible."

The group, she said, "is a really great resource that is specific to Catholic and faith-based issues that are going on."

Information on joining the Catholic System CFO group is available from Cottrell at [email protected] or (217) 523-4747.


Copyright © 2014 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2014 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.