Automation and the demand for data-driven insights have fundamentally transformed the way healthcare finance departments operate—and change is happening at a rapid pace. The mission of the finance department is evolving, becoming more strategic and forward looking than historical and backward looking. Traditional finance skills are becoming less desirable as the remit of the finance team changes and the use of technology, analytics, artificial intelligence and automation increases. Now is the time for healthcare chief financial officers (CFOs) to begin to retool their talent strategies to succeed in the digital age.
Early adopters are capturing the automation advantage
Healthcare has been slow to embrace beneficial technologies that address operational efficiency. These solutions have been put on the back burner while the enterprise invests in technology that has direct impact on clinical functions. For example, 60 percent of hospitals in the United States have not installed an ERP solution.1
The industry also lags others in the use of robotic process automation (RPA), which is a significant missed opportunity. While 61 percent of non-healthcare finance departments have a scalable RPA strategy in place, only 30 percent of high-growth healthcare providers and 18 percent of non-high growth providers are using RPA.2 RPA can take on work such as pulling data from internal systems, filling forms, extracting data from spreadsheets and turning data into actionable formats. Workers become free to focus on more strategic work such as forecasting and identifying sources of potential value. Accenture research shows that less than half of healthcare CFOs (44 percent) say their teams are focused on identifying and targeting areas of new value, and only 33 percent say that finance executives are currently spending time on initiatives to adopt new digital technology.3 See Figure 1.
An evolution of the finance mission
Automation will help finance teams to support new objectives. Accenture estimates that today, only 34 percent of finance tasks are automated cross-industry, but that 60 to 80 percent of backward-looking accounting activity can be automated.4 With digital, healthcare finance professionals can focus on creating data-driven insights and hypotheses in response to mounting requests from throughout the organization. Healthcare CFOs see the change coming—72 percent believe that finance skills will continue to move away from core finance to advanced digital, statistics, operational and collaborative talent.5
Many cross-industry CFOs (78 percent) think that digitization will facilitate a rise in self-service, reducing cycle times and providing more personalized service.6 The evolution of the function will likely continue since a substantial portion of typical finance activities can be replaced with artificial intelligence.
Staffing for a new age
Automation has influenced the mission of finance and that, in turn, has changed the type of skills required to support that mission. A majority of healthcare CFOs surveyed (2/3) believe that the talent profile needs to change quickly and drastically to accommodate new needs. 7
CFOs inside and outside of healthcare have begun to recruit staff for their finance departments with higher levels of analytical skills and data science capabilities in favor of typical accounting skills. What exactly are they looking for? According to Accenture research, among provider CFOs, analytics skills (data exploration, analysis and insight) ranked as most important when recruiting junior finance staff. For payer CFOs, data science (expertise in advanced algorithms and data product engineering) ranked highest.8 See Figure 2.
Look forward, move forward
Healthcare CFOs should consider taking action in three areas:
Healthcare is an industry marked by innovation and outcomes. The healthcare finance department should be no different. It is time to embrace the opportunities that technology affords, using automation to be more accurate, timely and effective—for less cost.
1 Technology Deep Dive: Enterprise Resource Planning;” HIMSS Analytics
2 Strategic Enabler: The New Healthcare CFO;” Accenture; April 2019
3 Accenture 2018 Global CFO Survey – Healthcare CFO results
4 CFO Reimagined: From Bottom Line to Front Line;” Accenture; 2018
5 Strategic Enabler: The New Healthcare CFO;” Accenture; April 2019
6 CFO Reimagined: From Bottom Line to Front Line;” Accenture; 2018
7 Strategic Enabler: The New Healthcare CFO;” Accenture; April 2019
8 Accenture 2018 Global CFO Survey – Healthcare CFO results