Using Data to Make Smart, Fact-Based Decisions: Meet the SHP Analytics Experts

“Data scientists are involved with gathering data, massaging it into a tractable form, making it tell its story, and presenting that story to others.” – Mike Loukides, editor, O’Reilly Media.

Seth Sharpe, MBA, and Mike Caruso, MBA, FACHE, are Principals at Spectrum Health Partners with 30 and 40 years, respectively, of executive leadership experience. Both have special capabilities and a passion for Healthcare Analytics. Their work is exacting, technical, complex, and can make the difference between an organization thriving or failing.

Seth Sharpe readily acknowledges that healthcare leaders are challenged on every front – responsible for reducing costs, providing high-quality care, complying with regulations, balancing staffing levels with productivity and revenue generation, while responding to competition and constant change in the marketplace.

“It doesn’t get more intense than healthcare problem-solving,” Seth said. “Healthcare’s got that mix of technology, smart people, important issues, and people’s lives at stake. Add to that government regulations, litigation and now the pandemic – there’s a lot of uncertainty in the industry.”

Mike Caruso has repeatedly seen a particular hospital archetype: “Typically, you see organizations that have an aged plant, and they don’t have the capital to shift their business. They can’t respond to the shift from an inpatient to an outpatient care model, where patients can get services in an outpatient setting and don’t have to go to the hospital. So, they can’t build an ambulatory care center or an outpatient surgery center where they could provide services in a lower-cost model. They don’t have the information technology, the equipment, the right facilities, or the infrastructure to change what they’re doing. So, they hang onto the older facility, their cash flow is very tight, and they’re in distress.”

If cash flow is tight, how can such a hospital afford to bring in outside experts for help?

“That’s a great question, and many hospitals ask it,” Mike said. “Every CEO, CFO or management team struggles with the cost of consulting fees. Here’s a couple things. First, when you’re working day-to-day and you’re trying to make things work all the time, can you really be looking down the line? Can you set up a telehealth program? How do you, when there’s a pandemic, have the information systems in place to be able to have immediate information so you can report on an hourly basis, so you’re on top of things?”

“Second, you don’t always have the expertise internally,” Mike said. “These things are new, and people are used to doing what they always did, the regular routine of healthcare. They probably don’t have in-house expertise to manage non-routine, complex issues. How do you stay on top of things like the changing policies, changing reimbursement rules? You can’t just stay the same, you need to continue to move the organization in the market and think strategically for the long term.”

Mike continued, “We encourage people to bring in the experts early. As soon as there are financial signs of distress, reach out and get expert help. Healthcare executives are brilliant and understand how to run hospitals and medical practices, dialysis centers and long-term care facilities, but most struggle with how to evaluate a restructuring situation.”

Seth added, “It’s hard for people to change away from what they’ve done in the past or move away from mistakes they’ve made. As a consultant, it’s easier for us, coming from the outside. It all begins with data, and that’s how I first analyze a situation, seeing where the numbers are, both from an operational and financial perspective.”

“The accounting functions drive the operations and vice versa,” Seth said. “I believe in managing by the metrics. Whenever I get a chance to jump on a spreadsheet, it’s an area of comfort and expertise for me. I know I’m bringing value to the table that day.”

“When I walk into a hospital and see they’re not managing by the metrics, I see an opportunity for improvement,” Seth continued. “The data enables me to measure what success looks like. Data reveals when something is successful and when it’s not. Get those metrics in line, and everything follows along with it.”

Mike explained the value of working with the right consulting team. “Often, CEOs and CFOs could use outside expertise to help them manage day-to-day operational issues they have not been able to improve, or that they need to improve more, such as with the supply chain. Or they need expert help with strategic issues related to shifting the business, changing the business model, setting up new markets, building an ambulatory surgery center, or considering the pros and cons of bankruptcy, restructuring, partnerships and affiliations.”

“It’s rewarding when we take a company through the process, we communicate it through the organization, from the medical staff to the community, to the board, and they’re able to get onto a sustainable path and continue to provide care for their community,” Mike summarized.

“If I’d known about Spectrum when I was a CEO, I would have brought them in,” Mike asserted. “The services are provided at a very reasonable cost and the class of people at Spectrum is amazing. We’re not one of those big, high-profile firms that charge a fortune. We’re a boutique healthcare financial services firm with an incredibly broad range of expertise that gets the job done for our clients.”

To see his bio or connect with Seth Sharpe, click here.  To view Mike Caruso’s profile or connect with him, click here.

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