Thirteen people involved in a $27 million healthcare fraud scheme have been sentenced to a combined 84 years in federal prison, the Justice Department announced Aug. 31.
The defendants allegedly participated in a fraud scheme that involved Novus Health Services, a Dallas-based hospice agency. The defendants allegedly defrauded Medicare by submitting false claims for hospice services, providing kickbacks for referrals and violating HIPAA to recruit beneficiaries. Novus employees also dispensed controlled substances to patients without the guidance of medical professionals, according to the Justice Department.
Novus CEO Bradley Harris admitted to the fraud and testified against two physicians who elected to go to trial. Mr. Harris pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and one count of healthcare fraud and aiding and abetting. He was sentenced to 159 months in federal prison in January.
The 12 others convicted in the scheme include three physicians, four nurses and several executives.
In just the first half of this year, more than 60 hospital CEOs have retired or left their roles, according to search firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. Retirements are up 48 percent from the same time last year. Part of this is generational, as many Baby Boomer leaders are at retirement age, but the latest wave comes after many delayed planned exits during the pandemic to guide their organizations through the crisis. 2
Now, after two-plus grueling years of leading through COVID, executives are ready to pass the baton. The latest high-profile announcement came this week, with Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare’s CEO Marc Harrison announcing his plans to leave the system for a role at venture firm General Catalyst.
The Gist: As a recent piece from Modern Healthcare points out, many systems have known their CEOs were exiting well in advance, but the significant cultural and financial consequences associated with choosing a new leader, especially during a period of industry-wide change, are presenting boards with hiring decisions as difficult as they are important.
Astute organizations have been planning ahead for these transitions, developing a bench of next-generation leaders, and providing them exposure to the board. COVID also served as a helpful stress test to identify talent who rose to the occasion to lead confidently and calmly through the crisis, while simultaneously weeding others out who floundered under uncertainty.
The next generation of leaders will need different skills to navigate current and future challenges, including rethinking the role of the health system in response to a new class of disruptors, and managing through a workforce crisis that will require evolving the labor model while meeting new demands for workforce diversity and engagement.
Dozens of hospital CEOs have resigned this year as a record number of chiefs across all industries have exited their roles, according to a May 18 Challenger, Gray & Christmas report.
Nearly 520 CEOs left their posts between Jan. 1 and the end of April, the highest total since the executive outplacement and coaching firm began tracking CEO changes in 2002. The total is up 18 percent from the 440 CEO exits announced in the same period of 2021.
Thirty-six hospital CEOs exited their roles in the first four months of this year. That’s up from the 20 hospital chiefs who resigned in the same period last year, according to the report.
CEOs are leaving their positions and businesses are making changes at the top for several reasons, Challenger, Gray & Christmas Senior Vice President Andrew Challenger said.
“Inflation, staffing shortages, and possible recession concerns are giving more cause for companies to reevaluate leadership,” Mr. Challenger said. “This, after years of companies trying to figure out the right formula to attract and retain talent and create a culture of inclusion, issues that often start at the top.”
The number of departing hospital CEOs is on the rise as C-level executives are grappling with challenges tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Twelve hospital CEOs exited their roles in January, double the number who stepped down from their positions in the same month a year earlier, according to a report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an executive outplacement and coaching firm.
While some hospital and health system CEOs are retiring, others are stepping down from their posts into C-level roles at other organizations. At least eight hospital and health system CEOs have stepped down from their positions since mid-February.
The increase in CEO departures isn’t unique to healthcare. More than 100 CEOs of U.S.-based companies left their posts in January, up from 89 in the same month a year earlier, according to the Challenger, Gray & Christmas report.
The uptick in executive exits shouldn’t be surprising given the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, experts told NBC News. CEOs and other executives aren’t immune to the pressures that are prompting people to leave their jobs.
“It’s many factors — the burnout, the pandemic, the school closures, the need to take stock of life,” Julia Pollack, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, told NBC News in January. “It’s a whole wide range of shocks.”
An opinion that’s supported by irrelevant or unreliable data might not be accurately capturing company performance.
How well is the opinion of your company’s performance supported by the evidence the auditor’s using?
Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) staff have released guidance on what constitutes relevant and reliable evidence for supporting audit opinions.
If evidence auditors are using isn’t relevant or from a reliable source, or if the reliability of the evidence itself is questionable, that can call into question the soundness of the opinion.
“In some cases, information that was determined by the auditor to be more relevant may not be the most reliable, and vice versa,” the guidance, released October 7, says.
PCAOB was created in 2002 as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to help ensure auditors don’t allow accounting problems in public companies to get past them and put investors at risk.
The new guidance tries to put guardrails around auditors’ growing use of external evidence to support their opinions.
The use of external evidence, like so many things today, is fueled by the widespread availability of data that companies, regulators and other entities collect and release. The question the guidance tries to answer is which data is relevant and reliable and which isn’t.
“Advancements in technology in recent years have improved accessibility and expanded the volume of information available to companies and their auditors from traditional and newer external sources,” the document says.
In general, data generated by regulators or entities that are themselves regulated — stock exchanges are mentioned — can be counted on to be more reliable than data generated by other types of organizations.
Similarly for data that’s generated by organizations vs. data that is derived through analyses of other organizations’ data. The more raw the data is, in other words, the better chance it’s reliable.
Relevance is the other big issue, and the guidance provides several use cases for thinking about that. For example, weather data can be relevant evidence for assessing the accuracy of a company’s sales data, presumably because bad weather can reduce brick-and-mortar sales, but only if the data is used correctly.
“Before using the weather data in developing certain expectations – e.g., for substantive analytical procedures related to product revenue – the auditor would need to understand the relationship between weather data and company activities,” the guidance says.
A company’s year-end stock price, obtained from an exchange, is another example. That data can be used to compare against the price the company is using to support its valuation of an instrument.
“The exchange price would represent the fair value of the instrument,” the document says.
The guidance is directed at auditors, but it’s relevant to CFOs for checking whether their auditor is using external evidence appropriately in its assessment of company performance.
A recently retired health system CEO pointed us to a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, which indicates that leading an organization through an industry downturn takes a year and a half off a CEO’s lifespan.
It’s not surprising, he said, thatgiven the stress of the past year, we will face a big wave of retirements of tenured health system CEOs as their organizations exit the COVID crisis. Part of the turnover is generational, with many Baby Boomers nearing retirement age, and some having delayed their exits to mitigate disruption during the pandemic.
As they look toward the next few years and decide when to exit, many are also contemplating their legacies. One shared, “COVID was enormously challenging, but we are coming out of it with great pride, and a sense of accomplishment that we did things we never thought possible.
Do I want to leave on that note, or after three more years of cost cutting?” All agreed that a different skill set will be required for the next generation of leaders. The next-generation CEOs must build diverse teams capable of succeeding in a disruptive marketplace, and think differently about the role of the health system.
“I’m glad I’m retiring soon,” one executive noted. “I’m not sure I have the experience to face what’s coming. You won’t succeed by just being better at running the old playbook.” Compelling candidates exist in many systems, and assessing who performed best under the “stress test” of COVID should prove a helpful way to identify them.
Abstract:This article is the second in the series that addresses the initial stages of going through a career transition. Career management articles in the blog have been popular. A transition is a traumatic event, to say the least, especially the first time. These articles address what you should be doing BEFORE your transition occurs.
In the last piece that is the first in this series, I addressed the fact that there is little relationship between how good you are at what you do and the probability that you will end up in a transition.
This article addresses what you should be doing to prepare for an unplanned transition.
The ACHE tracks hospital CEO turnover. The average annual rate is around 18%. According to Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, hospital CEO is one of America’s most dangerous occupations measured by potential longevity or lack thereof in a position. One of my most popular articles discusses some of the many reasons for executive turnover that have little to do with performance. A lot of people are very interested in the topic.
HFMA does not track CFO turnover, but it is probably equally rampant as CFOs too often get credit for substandard organizational performance despite having little control or influence over the incurrence of operating cost or results. CFOs and other C-Suite inhabitants bear a disproportionate risk of having their career disrupted by CEO turnover.
If you start asking around, you might be surprised to learn how many healthcare executives were involuntarily ‘freed up to seek other opportunities’ at least once in their career. When I told my friend John at a reunion that I had decided to go into the consulting business, he immediately accused me (correctly) of having been fired. John went on to tell me how lucky I was because few executives that are disruptive innovators have not been fired at least once. To my friend, having been fired is a rite of passage.
John’s career goal at the time was to become the CEO of a large hospital, and he believed that a transition would strengthen his CV. As fate would have it, not too long after the reunion, I got the call from John and, you know, the rest of the story. John went on from this setback to become the long-running CEO of one of the largest Baptist hospitals in the southeast.
For those who push hard in organizations to get them to change their culture for the better and get on a better track, the risk of being let go is much higher. With one exception, every person that I have ever worked with through a transition has emerged a wiser, stronger person in a position much better suited for their skills and talents. While I would never encourage anyone to go through a transition, the process’s outcome has been both cathartic and career-enhancing.
So, given this risk, what should you be doing? Your preparation for a turnover event should start IMMEDIATELY!! If you wait until you are out, you have waited WAY TOO LONG!! If you do not have a networking database, you need to start immediately to develop this asset. My networking database commenced during my first transition. It now has over 3,000 companies and over 4,100 contacts. Most of my contacts are business-related, and most of them will respond to an email or return a call. Contrast this with the call I get too often from a newly terminated executive asking for connection assistance, that never bothered to record phone numbers or email addresses of people that may be in a position to be of help. Too many friends had contact files stored on a corporate phone or a corporate database and lost them when they turned over a phone or access to corporate systems was terminated. Frequently, access is restricted right before the victim learns of their fate as a security measure of the organization. Getting your data back if this happens is not going to be easy or fun.
For this reason, I have successfully refused to use a company-owned phone or put my networking database developed over twenty years on a computer system I do not control. The problem with having business and personal data on the same device is if you give the organization access to ‘their data, they cannot lock it selectively. When they lock or wipe the device, they are going to destroy everything on the device. My networking database is my most valuable personal asset. There is an article in my blog dedicated to networking. The time to start building your networking database and skill is before you need it.
You should start the process of thinking through the next step in your career. Get out a piece of paper. What do you like about your current situation and wish to preserve? What do you want to change? Where are you willing to relocate? What is your idea of the perfect relationship with a superior? What will the effect of a termination/relocation be on your family, and how will you manage that? In other words, what are you going to be when you grow up? A turnover event is sometimes the catalyst that causes someone to decide to start their own business. Is there a path forward in your current situation, or should you be thinking about proactively inducing your turnover event or at least beginning preparations? People that have been through transitions will tell you from experience that it is a lot easier to get a job while employed than when you are not employed.
A turnover event is a huge psychological and physical burden. Everyone around you is going to be affected. Do not delude yourself into thinking you can manage a transition without help, especially the first one. My dad had a sign in his shop,
Labor – $20
If you watch – $40
If you help – $80
If you already worked on it yourself, $200
My most significant learning from consulting experience is recognizing when an expert is needed and understanding the necessity of getting my ego out of the way in the process of seeking and availing myself or my client of expert assistance. Clients and consultants do more harm than good by trying to do something they have no business doing in a frequently futile effort to save money. Sometimes, the results are disastrous. We have all heard the adages that a doctor treating himself has an idiot patient or a lawyer who represents himself has a moron for a client.
Contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these articles, leadership, transitions, or interim services. I might have an idea or two that might be valuable to you.An observation from my experience is that we need better leadership at every level in organizations. Some of my feedback comes from people who are demonstrating an interest in advancing their careers, and I am writing content to address those inquiries.
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