No one expects the CFO of a health care organization to perform surgery. At the same time, finance chiefs in the field are becoming more engaged in conversations around patient outcomes and society’s broad health care challenges, according to a new Accenture report.

In fact, there could be a link between such expansive thinking and financial results.

Accenture surveyed 110 senior finance executives at health care providers and payers. At the 59% of such organizations whose 2018 revenues exceeded expectations, 88% of the participants agreed that health care CFOs must become increasingly conversant and analytically enabled around population health and clinical outcomes.

Among participants at organizations where revenue was in line with or below expectations, only 64% of the finance executives agreed with the statement.

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Overall, the report notes, health care organizations are automating and adopting digital technologies at a slower rate than companies in other sectors. However, CFOs at the better-performing providers and payers are also more forward-thinking when it comes to technology. Among them, 83% are leading efforts to use technology to boost efficiency across the business, compared with 69% of those at the lower performers.

In the same vein, the groups of survey participants also diverged when it came to data analytics.

They were asked where the finance function should be playing a leading role with respect to data governance. “Identifying and taking control of the organization’s most critical data” appealed to 82% of the better performers, and 69% of the others.

The same trend line applied to “identifying which data represents the greatest potential value for the business” (85% to 64%) and “developing best practices for combining data sets” (91% to 71%).

“Health care CFOs are forging a more strategic and influential role for themselves,” the survey report states. “Yet challenges remain. Deep silos are restricting cross-functional cooperation. Non-compatible systems, processes, and incentives create barriers and resistance to finance-led strategic opportunities.”

To overcome these challenges, a key priority for health care CFOs “must be to collaborate with other functions and create a more open environment,” the report continues. “In a fast-evolving health care environment, this may ultimately be non-negotiable to enabling sustained growth.”

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