Healthcare organizations use financial budgeting to estimate their revenue and expenditures over a set period. These activities allow the facility to understand how much of the budget will need to be allocated to equipment, staffing, patient care, and more. It is a crucial aspect of healthcare management, as medical systems across the US are highly complex but still need to work within set financial parameters.
By budgeting effectively, the organization can turn a profit while also delivering excellent quality care. Moreover, it will remain compliant with the regulations set out by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which administers health coverage to 160 million Americans through Medicaid and the Health Insurance Marketplace, among other schemes.
The healthcare industry is a dynamic and exciting place to work, as new drugs, treatments, and technologies are constantly being developed. The job of adopting these and deploying them onto wards to offer the maximum benefit to patients and staff partially falls to careful financial budgeting. Facilities with enough funds can pay for the latest innovations as they become available and plan to mitigate the impact of economic changes on the medical industry as a whole.
This article explores careers in healthcare management and their role in financial budgeting in more detail.
How to pursue a career in healthcare management
Healthcare management is a challenging but highly fulfilling field to work in, blending elements of medical and business settings. For people who want to excel in a demanding role where they can make a positive difference and help others, it is ideal. However, working professionals may be unsure how to retrain while managing their other commitments.
Fortunately, those with a passion for the US healthcare system and a drive to improve the organizations that serve their local community can advance their careers through remote learning. Distance learning programs are available at academic institutes like Walsh University. This university offers a fully online program, allowing for maximum flexibility. They provide access to the practical skills and knowledge that future healthcare professionals will need to succeed.
The flexible online MBA program at Walsh University allows graduates to learn at their own pace and tailor the course to suit their interests. Students can qualify within one year, ready to develop policy, plus improve and manage budgetary requirements in competitive healthcare settings. The program covers all the key areas of expertise needed, such as financial accounting and management, marketing, and organizational communication theories.
How is professional financial budgeting carried out?
Accurate financial budgeting ensures that the decisions of a healthcare organization are informed and consider all relevant factors. These techniques help the facility monitor its performance, adapt during periods of change, and have enough flexibility to expand spending when necessary.
What are the budgeting processes used in healthcare?
Healthcare organizations use a range of budgeting processes to ensure results don’t go out of date and they don’t miss anything important. Processes are no longer completed annually, as this creates predictions that are based on information that’s at least six months old and often means that significant changes are not anticipated.
To negate this, some facilities will use flex budgeting. These types of budgets vary depending on the amount of revenue a hospital or clinic earns. They use a percentage of this revenue for expense forecasting rather than fixed amounts. This type of budget can be more accurate when predicting actual results.
Rolling budgets are another popular choice, as they work on a monthly rather than an annual basis. They still maintain a 12-month forecast, but one that is liable to change each month. Rolling budgets spread the various forecasting tasks over a year as part of an ongoing process, adding new periods as older ones expire. They keep the budget agile and in line with actual revenue growth and, as such, can reduce uncertainty. Rolling forecasts have become a popular way of addressing the constant changes the healthcare system has to adapt to. They examine past performance and use financial drivers to make predictions for a certain timeframe. This enables the organization to reallocate its resources and readjust its strategy based on almost real-time information.
Whichever technique the healthcare management team uses to create a budget, many will also leverage the potential of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI). These are useful tools when creating projected results based on past and current financial conditions.
Using cost-benefit analysis to inform strategic decision-making
To secure the best outcomes, health organizations often use cost-benefit analysis to accurately predict the success of any potential action. It can help the hospital work out how stakeholders could be impacted, whether there will be any financial waste, and highlight other unforeseen problems. There is no right or wrong way of using this form of analysis, but it relies on the accuracy of the forecasts used, both for the costs and benefits of a project.
Primarily, the team will need to consider the goals of a project and its scope and then notify key stakeholders for their input. Next, they will calculate the costs of the project and determine the potential benefits, such as the facility becoming more competitive or achieving a higher annual revenue. Finally, the costs and benefits will be weighed up, and a decision will be made. If the project offers excellent rewards in comparison to its costs, it may well be accepted.
Maintaining cash flow with revenue cycle management
To ensure they are paid for providing services, healthcare organizations use revenue cycle management. This is a complex system that starts with patients being scheduled for treatment and ends when their care has been paid for. The idea is to ensure the hospital is paid correctly and quickly for the care it provides.
Patients can have a long and meandering journey through the healthcare system. When that principle is applied to the multiple patients who enter a facility every day, it becomes crucial to spot and correct any issues in the revenue cycle. Moreover, even the smallest errors, such as recording inaccurate contact information or accepting an ineligible insurance policy, can result in a denied claim and a delay in the facility being paid.
Claims must be submitted to an insurance provider with the correct codes and tracking. This ensures the hospital can easily find out which stage it is at, when the claim has been approved, and when to expect reimbursement from the insurer. Plus, if the patient is liable for any expenses, the hospital knows at the earliest stage and can begin to collect these.
Done well, revenue cycle management keeps each stage on track, ensuring revenue is not lost or delayed, and the facility enjoys a steady cash flow.
Evaluating a facility’s performance with variance analysis
Healthcare systems often use variance analysis tools to evaluate the performance of various departments and identify areas for improvement. These allow them to monitor how the outcomes of their activities panned out compared to their initial estimates. Moreover, these insights enable them to take corrective steps where necessary.
Before a hospital offers a service, they will establish a standard cost. This predetermined amount will be based on the best information currently available and the predictions they have garnered about future conditions. Once these are set, and the service is rolled out, variance analysis will be used to compare this standard to the actual performance of the service.
This can be worked out per facility, unit, or department. The more detailed the variance, the more useful these figures can be. These evaluations can cover various periods, too, from hourly to yearly. Using this technique, managers can spot a potential problem at the earliest stage and react quickly to changes in the projected cash flow or costs.
Managing change with cash flow analysis
When changes to a healthcare organization’s cash flow happen unexpectedly, it can leave the business side vulnerable. Therefore, understanding the in-flow and out-flow of cash is essential for maintaining a financially secure facility. This will involve closely monitoring the revenue generated, along with operational costs. It is an effective way of identifying weak areas that need improving and, as a result, optimizing revenue. Furthermore, consistent cash flow analysis means a facility is less likely to spend more than it makes, an issue that can prevent growth and damage its competitive edge.
Good cash management is not just about knowing what funds are available; it enables a healthcare business to pay suppliers and staff while preventing overspending. Furthermore, monitoring the collection of payments from insurance companies and patients can ensure these processes are carried out efficiently. Many organizations will use software to support the work of their management team. This can help to isolate areas of concern such as potential fraud, duplicated payments, and late payments.
Furthermore, by comparing cash flow statements with corresponding forecasts, these figures can be used to evaluate the performance of one department or the entire organization. Cash flow analysis is also a useful tool for tracking spending and improving short-term planning. It considers any upcoming financial obligations so the facility can take steps to cover costs and remain viable.
Safeguarding long-term investments with capital budgeting
Capital budgeting activities represent long-term investments as they are designed to give the organization value. This form of budgeting might include buying equipment or even land as an investment. Before the acquisition has been completed, the financial team will determine its potential value in terms of how quickly it will pay for itself and what the rate of return will be. If a project is expected to have a high rate of return compared to the initial outlay, it will be considered a good idea.
Although capital budgeting is different from operational planning, it is a key part of creating a long-term financial strategy. It ensures a facility is prepared for large-scale plans and continually monitors ongoing projects. This can often result in capital budgets being amended throughout the year. They are of key strategic importance as such large sums of money are involved. Therefore, should something go wrong, there could be severe delays in the project’s completion or significant financial losses to contend with.
Budgeting for a profitable future with financial forecasting
Although financial forecasting is often associated with the creation of static annual budgets, modern health budgeting is far more dynamic and responsive to change. These forecasts allow the facility to navigate shifting resource requirements, staffing costs, the demand for consumables, and more. Driver-based forecasts include other factors, external and internal, that can affect the financial stability of an organization, along with fiscal predictions. This presents a picture of what is happening behind the statistics a facility produces and how these factors may impact the future. This form of planning is useful for setting up other forms of financial forecasting, as it considers how multiple types of change may impact the facility’s financial performance.
By budgeting well, healthcare organizations can allocate their resources efficiently and safeguard their future success. They can then offer emerging technologies and drugs, which improve patient outcomes and accurately estimate the cost of purchasing future treatments. Moreover, a facility that has a deep understanding of its financial situation can tailor its spending to remain compliant with government regulations and policies. Finally, good fiscal planning enables a healthcare organization to adapt to changes in the industry, remain buoyant, and offer the best available care, even when the economy is stagnant.