Clarke’s farewell

De­part­ing HFMA chief saw rapid changes

Modern Healthcare - - The Week in Healthcare - Andis Robeznieks

Things are just get­ting in­ter­est­ing in health­care fi­nance, so why quit now? Richard Clarke said he has heard that of­ten since an­nounc­ing his re­tire­ment last week af­ter 25 years as pres­i­dent and CEO of the 37,000-mem­ber, Westch­ester, Ill.-based Health­care Fi­nan­cial Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion.

Clarke, 62, will re­tire July 31, 2012; and al­though it’s true that sig­nif­i­cant changes are com­ing at a rapid pace, he said change has been a con­stant since he started at the HFMA in 1986. “It’s funny be­cause when I orig­i­nally took the job, I told the board I’d only stay for five years,” Clark said, and ev­ery five years or so, some ma­jor de­vel­op­ment re­minded him that he was liv­ing dur­ing in­ter­est­ing times.

He started at the HFMA dur­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of diagnosis-re­lated groups. This was fol­lowed by the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion health­care ini­tia­tives, the Bal­anced Bud­get Act, a fi­nan­cial cri­sis or two, and fi­nally, the pas­sage of the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Affordable Care Act.

Clarke said he has seen a lot of bad ideas that have helped keep an un­sus­tain­able sys­tem afloat. He added, though, that he’s op­ti­mistic that the im­ple­men­ta­tion of ac­count­able care—which re­wards value over vol­ume—can pro­vide a frame­work for build­ing a bet­ter health­care sys­tem.

“Our mem­bers are very good ac­tors in a bad play. The sys­tem stinks—our pay­ment sys­tem is a ma­jor im­ped­i­ment to a trans­par­ent, value-driven and efficient sys­tem,” he said. “I think the con­cept of ac­count­able care—not the Medi­care ver­sion with ‘ac­count­able care’ in cap­i­tal let­ters—but hold­ing provider or­ga­ni­za­tions ac­count­able for both qual­ity and cost, putting value over vol­ume, makes a lot of sense.”

Leah Binder, CEO of the Leapfrog Group coali­tion of ma­jor em­ploy­ers, cred­its Clarke with out­lin­ing the busi­ness case for qual­ity im­prove­ment and then ad­vo­cat­ing for it. “He made the busi­ness case, and then he struc­tured HFMA—with a plethora of ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties—to ham­mer home the core mes­sage that qual­ity makes busi­ness sense,” Binder said.

Clarke said the con­cepts Binder re­ferred to are in­cluded in the HFMA’s Value Pro­ject, which was launched last month. He said he’ll spend his re­main­ing time at the or­ga­ni­za­tion rolling out that ini­tia­tive as well as ob­serv­ing and help­ing to shape the emerg­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion of the re­form law’s new reg­u­la­tions. Then, he said, it will be time for some­one else to step in and lay a five-to 10year foun­da­tion for the fu­ture.

Clarke said he plans to spend his re­tire­ment do­ing more writ­ing and teach­ing.


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