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The Changing Role of Financial Forecasting During a Pandemic

Kim McCarthy

Kim McCarthy

VP of Financial Reporting and System Controller at Trinity Health

Kim McCarthy, Trinity Health

Uncertain times call for flexibility, teamwork and unity to adapt to the new normal. 

Quartz Network Executive Correspondent Britt Erler sat down with Kim McCarthy, VP of Financial Reporting and System Controller for Trinity Health to discuss how to maintain a successful financial division during the pandemic.  

Kim shares insight into: 

  • How COVID-19 has impacted the finance function at Trinity Health 
  • Managing and engaging teams in a remote work environment 
  • How their year-end audit differs during COVID-19 

Quartz Network: Can you give some background about your current role with Trinity Health? 

Kim McCarthy: I’m the VP of Financial Reporting. My team has responsibility for all the internal and external reporting across Trinity Health. We do the monthly consolidated financial statements, internal management, and all of our external reporting to our bondholders. So really, in focusing on the policies and procedures across the organization. 

Quartz Network: How has this changed for you during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Kim McCarthy: Trinity Health is a healthcare organization providing patient services. So, it’s had a huge impact on our organization. We serve in 22 states across the United States. We are a large Catholic-based organization. We have about 92 hospitals, either owned or managed during a joint venture, about 100 continuing care locations, 120,000 employees. So, we’re very large—7000 associated physicians.  

Our operations were significantly impacted by COVID-19. We had mandated shelter in place orders across most of our markets starting in mid-March, and many of them lasted through June. Our operations and our volumes were hugely impacted. We immediately set up a FEMA format incident command center across the organization. Many groups of teams met daily for the first two and a half months. Those have scaled back a bit now, but we really had a huge decrease in our patient volume, their inpatient admissions dropped about 20%, our surgeries dropped over a third in that four-month period. We have bounced back from those volumes since June. We hit the real low peak in April. But it’s significant impact across our organization and cross functional teams meeting to make sure that we’re meeting our patient care needs. 

Quartz Network: How do you keep your team motivated and on track while working virtually? 

Kim McCarthy: We’ve had to do a lot of juggling of activities. Our workload has changed. What we’re working on has changed. So, we do a lot of online training using the team technologies. To keep that link that we’re missing from being in the office together, we make sure that we do at least monthly team building activities. Most of those have been virtual happy hours. We share who gets to pick the cocktail for the meeting. 

Quartz Network: With your fiscal year ending on June 30, how was this year’s audit different due to the pandemic? 

Kim McCarthy: The biggest change that we’ve encountered right now that’s kind of got us in a holding pattern. We did receive several millions of dollars’ worth of funding from both the Cares Act and Paycheck Protection Act. Some of those funds are considered federal grants. We’re usually done with our grant audit towards the end of October, but that grant guidance hasn’t even been published yet by the federal government. So, they were really focused on trying to get healthcare entities cash fast so that we could keep serving our patients. But with that, there’s been a lot of confusion, a lot of lack of clarity. They publish Frequently Asked Questions almost daily that we have to keep up with. It’s really just been a huge added workload, balancing those federal changes in that federal funding, and kind of trying to keep track of it all. 

Quartz Network: Are you able to accurately forecast for the next year or is it more day by day? 

Kim McCarthy: Forecasts are definitely challenging right now. It’s very hard to predict volume. We have had a couple of locations that have surged later or gone through second surges of the pandemic and the virus itself. So, we changed from doing an annual budget. Instead of doing a 12-month budget we’re doing quarterly forecasts. So breaking it down into smaller components, and then we actually do a rolling forecast each month. 

Quartz Network: What changes have you had to make when managing your staff? 

Kim McCarthy: I’ve definitely had to be more flexible. Before COVID, we pretty much had a work in the office policy full time. We worked from home a couple of days, but the majority of our time was spent in the office together as a team. It’s just really helping the team focus on priorities and making sure that they understand the key deadlines and the key priorities. Then making sure they have the right tools, and that we’re communicating constantly to make sure that we’re meeting all those deadlines. 

Quartz Network: Do you have any advice for finance executives going through a similar experience? 

Kim McCarthy: Embrace the new technology that’s out there. I’m an old dog. I can learn new tricks. I let the young kids on my team learn all the new tricks, and then they teach me those things. I teach them some of the technical aspects of health care and the experience that I’ve had over the 26 years here at Trinity, and they teach me the new stuff. So, it’s a two-way street. The key is really that strong focus on teamwork. The only way we’ve been able to get through this is getting through it together. 

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