Joyce Zimowski hasn't picked up her flute in more than 20 years, but the Rochester, N.Y.-based financial executive knows a lot about orchestrating change at a healthcare system.
As incoming chairwoman of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, Zimowski selected the theme, "Ideas That Work," for the HFMA's 2004 Annual National Institute June 27 through July 1 at Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
The HFMA is projecting nearly 3,300 registered attendees and exhibitors, 7% more than last year's event in Baltimore. The association's membership now exceeds 33,000, up from about 32,000 last year.
It's an event where music naturally will be a central theme.
Zimowski, a former chief financial officer who now holds the nontraditional title of vice president of financial performance improvement at Unity Health System, selected Boston Philharmonic conductor Benjamin Zander as the keynote speaker. Zander is known for drawing parallels between music and business leadership.
Reflecting an increasing trend, Zimowski's own job is to harmonize finance and operations, working with administrators, nurses, physicians and social workers to improve the financial performance of individual departments and reduce lengths of stay. She reports directly to the chief executive officer.
"I am shepherd of a very focused process that includes 15 or 20 different clinical strategic initiatives that we know are key to our success," Zimowski says.
On that note, speakers are expected to provide real-world examples of performance improvement. "We're working with every one of our presenters to make sure they provide something that attendees can take back with them-a worksheet, an Excel spreadsheet, something that the user can take that's an idea demonstrated in other places," says HFMA President Richard Clarke.
Attendees may wonder which is tougher-deciding which of Nashville's live music venues to hit at night, or picking from the more than 70 educational sessions offered during the day. Titles include "Why Don't My Physicians Meet Performance Benchmarks," "Turn Your Revenue Cycle Into a Hot Rod Using Bolt-on Technology," and "How Not to Negotiate an IT Contract."
Other popular themes are bad-debt reduction, managing employee talent and front-end revenue cycle improvement in areas such as registration and claims denials. Some of the topics will be covered in detail at five daylong pre-conference programs on June 27. Attendees may select from "Patient Financial Services," "Healthcare Compliance and Managed Care," "Achieving Successful Revenue Growth," "Understanding Data to Make Management Decisions," and "Understanding the Medicare Cost Report."
A pay-for-performance panel discussion will feature Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of the managed-care association America's Health Insurance Plans; HCA Chairman and CEO Jack Bovender Jr.; and Stuart Guterman, director of the CMS' Office of Research, Development and Information. With the CMS and now some private health plans pushing the concept, "We as financial folks need to be partners with our clinical folks in providing quality," Zimowski says. "People in finance recognize that it's the wave of the future."
With sessions aimed at helping them cope with the demands of physicians, payers, boards, CEOs, patients and government regulators, financial professionals may very well embrace a final keynote address by Plano, Texas-based motivational speaker Connie Podesta. Her topic: "Life Would Be Easy if It Weren't for Other People."
After years of falling bond ratings and a new round of technology and infrastructure investments under way, the HFMA has been studying its members' capital needs since last year. At the ANI, the association will release its fifth "Financing the Future" report, a series of six reports focusing on capital issues produced with PricewaterhouseCoopers and sponsored by GE Healthcare Financial Services.
Although it's not explicitly stated on the program, Clarke says some sessions will address legal and operational issues around billing and collections practices for uninsured patients-an area that has drawn negative publicity in the past 18 months. A congressional panel is expected to hold a hearing on the matter as early as June.
Zimowski says she believes publicized examples of excessive charges and belligerent collection tactics by hospitals are "more the exception than the rule," although she acknowledges that the industry was caught off guard without uniform procedures.
The event continues to strike a positive note with vendors such as receivables management, computer software, consulting and financial services firms. Last year, there were 285 exhibitors, and this year that will increase to 300 with a waiting list.