Grant Thornton survey: Addressing patients’ needs is key to growth in the healthcare industry


— 73% of healthcare CFOs said patient experience enhancement is the most important growth priority

— 39% ranked strategic fit as the top priority in investment and growth opportunities

— 44% indicated businesses that provide health insurance plans as a most likely collaboration partner

— 71% are implementing automation and other efficiency measures to mitigate labor costs


CHICAGO — A new survey from Grant Thornton LLP, one of America’s largest providers of audit and assurance, tax and advisory services, revealed how chief financial officers (CFOs) in the healthcare sector are setting their priorities for success.


The firm’s Healthcare CFO survey, which polled more than 100 healthcare CFOs, found that growing a healthcare organization in today’s macroeconomic environment involves balancing several competing needs — with patient loyalty, workforce shortages and technology adoption among the most pressing.


In fact, 73% of survey respondents noted patient experience enhancement as the most important part of a healthcare CFO’s growth priorities, ranking ahead of expanding into new markets (65%), launching new services (64%), increasing community outreach (60%) and M&A activity (38%). 


“Understanding why patient experience is a top priority starts with realizing that growth within a healthcare organization is dependent on serving as many patients as you can,” said John Summerlin, Grant Thornton’s managing director of operations transformation for Healthcare. “Growth occurs either through increasing the ability to see new patients within existing facilities or by enlarging the capacity of a healthcare system, either through acquisition or expansion.”


A more controlled way to grow, Summerlin added, is to better capture a patient’s entire needs within a particular healthcare organization. For instance, patients who use a healthcare system for their primary care physician must also be able to seek other medical care in-system as well. This could include lab work, specialist care or emergency care.


“Conceptually, this means investing in a ‘patient loyalty’ model,” Summerlin said.


The survey also asked respondents to provide words that best describe decisions that drive growth, with terms like “patients” and “customers” cited frequently in the answers. The most common word cited, however, was “technology.”


“Healthcare organizations should look at potential patients as healthcare consumers, which ultimately means thinking about the customer experience of their patients,” said Adrianne Boylen, a partner in Grant Thornton’s Healthcare Advisory practice. “That naturally leads to a focus on how technology can improve that experience and bolster patient loyalty.”




The value of forging partnerships


Grant Thornton’s Healthcare CFO survey also prompted CFOs to prioritize their company’s investment and growth opportunities. Thirty-nine percent of CFOs favored “strategic fit with company goals and mission,” and another 30% said “market potential” as their top priority as it relates to investment and growth opportunities. Just 18% said “risk level” and another 13% said “return on investment.”


“Growth for its own sake isn’t a viable strategy for most, so the emphasis on strategic fit and market potential is a byproduct of evaluating patient needs from a customer loyalty lens and acting to fulfill those needs,” said Summerlin. “Strategic growth in this way is, at times, a matter of being realistic about what an organization cannot do well and finding a nearby partner that bolsters their offerings.”


The survey also specifically asked about collaboration in the market. Nearly half (44%) of healthcare CFOs indicated that they’re most likely to collaborate with businesses that provide health insurance plans. Another 32% said they’re likely to collaborate with healthcare providers, while 14% of CFOs foresaw collaborating with private equity. Just 6% of respondents identified retail market entrants as a potential collaboration partner.




Labor costs and automation solutions


The firm’s survey also polled healthcare CFOs about the persistent workforce shortages impacting most healthcare organizations. When asked about steps their organizations are taking to mitigate rising labor costs, 71% of healthcare CFOs said they will implement automation and other efficiency measures, and 63% cited reducing dependence on outside contracting. Just 39% said increasing care delivery costs, and 34% said reducing headcount of hours worked.


Summerlin said most healthcare organizations have been part of a decades-long effort to hone job roles to make sure all employees are working at the top of their licenses.


“By rethinking duties and parsing those duties out to non-licensed individuals who presumably would be easier to hire, nurses and physicians can spend more of their time performing what they are trained to do. This can reduce reliance on highly specialized, high-cost outside labor,” concluded Summerlin.


To see additional findings from Grant Thornton’s Healthcare CFO survey, visit:


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