The Healthcare Financial Management Association has undertaken an ambitious "leading with integrity" campaign designed to position the chief financial officer as the hospital's moral compass.
The HFMA's plea for integrity may not stamp out the arrogance and greed that have stained healthcare, which is under fire for fraud and other hanky-panky, but it offers a starting point. And because CFOs are so involved in procurement, we hope the HFMA mantra spreads to vendors.
The biggest test case is McKesson HBOC's struggle to rebuild its reputation in the wake of a horrific management crisis. The company-formed in early 1999 by McKesson Corp., the nation's top drug distributor, and HBO & Co., the leading healthcare information systems purveyor-recently fired five top executives amid reports of financial fraud. All were former HBO managers who apparently were involved in improperly booking millions of dollars in sales.
While the shake-up was executed primarily to appease Wall Street, the company now must make good on promises to customers. Thus, it becomes an integrity issue. Graham King, the former boss of HBO rival Shared Medical Systems, who is known for his soothing style, has been named to take over the company's information technology division.
The stakes are high and the odds are long. HBO is said to have lost nearly 300 hospital customers over the past three years as it pursued an almost obnoxiously aggressive acquisition strategy. Despite the defections, McKesson's HBO operation continues to do business with two-thirds of the nation's hospitals.
The company now says customer satisfaction is its top priority-a welcome change from the patronizing approach of the previous regime. Members of the HFMA, as well as chief executive officers and chief information officers, should make sure the company keeps its word.