Asante 2023: The recovery begins
As the turbulence of the pandemic recedes (knock wood), Asante leaders are looking toward the future. COVID-19 upended many of our practices, altered some of our priorities, shrunk our staffing levels and took a dramatic toll on our finances.
As the organization begins fiscal year 2023, the goal now is to right the ship.
“Last year was not a stellar year,” said interim CEO Roy Vinyard. “It was ugly, as were the financials of probably 99.9% of the country. This year we need to show a positive turnaround.”
As CEO Scott Kelly remains on medical leave, Vinyard plans to take an active approach to lead Asante through its early recovery until Kelly’s return, including implementing plans sanctioned by the Board of Directors in August.
“Don’t consider me an interim,” he told leaders at the quarterly Asante Leadership Forum on Tuesday, their first on-site meeting in 1,000 days. “I’m not here just to fill a seat. I’m working on executing our strategic plan and helping restore Asante to the organization it was.”
The biggest hurdle will be to recover some of the financial losses caused by the pandemic. Asante lost $61.2 million last year, due in part to skyrocketing contract labor costs, capacity constraints, increased pharmacy and supply costs, and other factors.
Asante fared better than other health care organizations because years of financial prudence helped build enough cash reserves to avoid drastic cost-cutting measures.
Going forward, however, Asante must focus on several key drivers to regain financial health, Vinyard said. They include:
Reducing the need for contract labor, which accounted for 88% of last year’s budget shortfall. This work is underway.
Recruiting and retaining workers. “Every health care system in the country is recruiting, so we have to be better,” Vinyard said. “We have to cast a wide net and put resources into it. At the same time we need to retain the great people we have.”
Speeding throughput. The inability to discharge patients to long-term or skilled-nursing facilities due to bed shortages on their end caused longer lengths of stay in the hospitals and delayed procedures. “Some of those problems are not of our making but we need to find solutions,” Vinyard said.
Expanding access, particularly in revenue-generating services such as surgeries, imaging and infusion. These areas too suffered from capacity challenges, causing patients to go elsewhere.
Asante’s operating budget for 2023 sets a goal of positive $34.8 million net income and a lower-than-usual operating margin goal of 2.87%. (It was typically 3%; Asante ended FY 2022 with a -5.4% margin.)
The new budget involves belt tightening from nearly every Asante department, but leaders say it should be achievable as services return to full capacity.
The 2023 Balance Scorecard — which helps the system measure its performance against its goals — has changed as well from years past.
It’s still tied to Asante’s six strategic aims, but some of the measures have changed to reflect the priorities of the recovery. The new measures include:
- Implementing at least five initiatives to make health care services more affordable.
- Ensuring that at least 25% of patients are able to get an outpatient CT or MRI within 14 days of referral.
- Increasing employee engagement as measured by responses to the annual Employee Engagement Survey in April and quarterly micropulse surveys to be taken throughout the year.
Still to be determined is the future of the PEAK incentive program, which was suspended in 2022 due to the financial shortfall.
“We’re examining what kind of incentive program works best for all staff members,” said Robert Begg, vice president of Human Resources. “That decision is likely to come at the end of this fiscal year in September 2023.”
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