Identifying Opportunities For Innovation In Healthcare Finance

Kevin F. Brennan

Kevin F. Brennan


Chair, HFMA

“Innovation is this amazing intersection between someone’s imagination and the reality in which they live.” —Ron Johnson

Last month, I shared my thoughts about steps we can take to foster innovation in healthcare finance. One key step is identifying opportunities to innovate. That may sound daunting, but it is actually easier than you may think. The key is knowing where to look.

Take, for example, Russell Conwell’s Acres of Diamonds—it’s a story about Al Hafed, a wealthy man who owned a large farm in south central India. Al Hafed lived a contented life, until an ancient Buddhist priest told him of the existence of diamonds, the world’s most valuable mineral. Al Hafed became so obsessed with the idea of becoming incredibly wealthy that he sold his farm and traveled the world to find the precious gemstones. Ultimately, he spent all his money and, penniless and despondent, drowned himself.

In the meantime, while watering his camel one day, the new owner of Al Hafed’s farm noticed a brightly colored rock glinting in the brook and took it home. A few days later, the old Buddhist priest returned to the farm and, seeing the colorful rock on the mantel, recognized it as a large diamond in the rough. This led to the discovery of the diamond mine of Golconda—one of the world’s most magnificent diamond mines.

The lesson is simple. You do not need to look elsewhere. Opportunities for innovation are closer than you may think—perhaps as close as your own backyard.

An example from my own career with Geisinger is when we created a package price for cardiac artery bypass graft surgery and gave a “guarantee” that insulated the patient and payer from additional charges for related complications. It brought the clinicians, finance professionals, patient, and payer together to deliver best practices, improving cost and quality simultaneously.

HFMA has been similarly innovative in recent months by identifying areas where we could do some of the things we were already doing in different ways to better meet our members’ needs. As a result, we are transforming our traditional association membership model to offer members better ways to access healthcare finance news, educational content, virtual conferences, certifications, research, and more. Examples include HFMA’s new Enterprise Solutions membership program and our reimagined Annual Conference, which reflected members’ desires for a more meaningful, contemporary learning and networking environment.

So what opportunities for innovation are waiting in your backyard? You already own a diamond mine. Get out there and mine it!