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Just about every healthcare professional knows about the importance of hand hygiene compliance. Convincing the CFO of the need for a solution to increase compliance can be difficult, though. Trying to express this in CFO terms is a good start. But what else can you do to get financial approval?

How can you get through to decision makers that your capital requests are fundamental needs, not just a wish-list like my six-year-old niece has at Christmas for a unicorn and a swimming pool?

Well, we all know that in healthcare you have several genuine and reasonable needs for patient safety that really are not “optional”, but very necessary tools. As someone who worked with several dozens of hospitals on lowering their infection rates, I’ve seen the ever-present challenges that occur. Here is what I suggest when counseling clients who are trying to gain financial approval for our solutions.

1. Present your capital requests with a case to support it

For example, if you are requesting a solution to improve hand hygiene compliance within your department, tell your CFO why he or she should care. How does this tool help them save money? Well, first and foremost this is a solution required to remain compliant (they still probably don’t care). You can continue showing IFUs until you are blue in the face, but again, cool down man, tell me why I care.

The question that begs to be asked is “What is the cost of a citation? The cost of bad media if a patient is infected? Or worst case, the cost of your OR being shut down for a certain timeframe because of point A or B?” 

2. Build a business case

In the event that your case comes up short, and it likely will in light of the fact that the CFO does not live in your reality or feel your pain. Furthermore, he or she likely couldn't find that alcohol refill bottles to save the patients’ lives.

Therefore, let them see your pain with their own eyes by translating it into a language they understand. Costs.

Take your case and make a storyline out of it that clearly makes them understand the cost structure of it. If we take non-compliant hand hygiene as an example, the case can look like this:

Nurse A goes into a room in a medical ward to a patient recently diagnosed as a carrier of an infection. Let’s say it is Clostridium difficile. She remembers to sanitize her hands with alcohol after helping the patient change clothes, but forgets to wash hands with water and soap, which is needed to kill the spores of Clostridium difficile. Straight after the visit she continues into the kitchen to unpack and prepare the food for the ward. She takes all the trays out of the heat cabinet, unpacks it and prepares it for the other nurses to serve it.

While doing this she unknowingly infects each of the meal trays for the 22 patients in the ward with low immune systems with Clostridium difficile.

During the night all 22 patients complains about stomach pain and has diarrhea. An out break has happened.

The result: 19 of the patients should have been discharged the next day, but it takes 24 hours extra before they are able to leave the hospital.

3 of them suffers severe dehydration and must stay additional 3 days in the hospital. The total cost is: $2,000/night x (19+9) nights = $56,000

All patient rooms needed extra cleaning after Clostridium difficile costing a total of: $5,000 extra.

The 28 days the patient beds were blocked in lost revenue: $45,000

All patients needed treatment with antibiotics, which negatively affected the hospitals' objective to cut down on antibiotic use.

Recount to your CFO the story of how not spending this money will cost him $106,000, and not a “Hello, we need this”.

3. Get your vendors to help you build your case. 

They are the product expert. And it is no big surprise they would love nothing more than to close the sale. Let them do the leg work, not you. You got things to do (because you do not have the resources you need and you are busy scrambling).

Questions to ask your vendors:

1. How easy is your product to implement?

2. Why is your product better than the other 7 vendors trying to sell me the same thing that I still do not have approval for?

3. Can you help me build a financial case for my decision maker to seem more interested?

4. Do you have photos, IFUs, or case studies that support my case?

Added BONUS tip:

Document every living crud out of occurrences that prove the necessity.

Take pictures, document times, and do a cost breakdown similar to what I did in point #2.

If you are prepared with all four steps above when you submit capital requests, your likelihood of approval will highly increase.

Last hint: Speaking their language and using words like liability, cost avoidance, regulatory requirements, return on investment, etc. will plant a seed that hopefully takes root sooner rather than later.

So, if you come to your CFO asking for a unicorn and a swimming pool like my six-year-old would, you WILL get denied all dang day.

But if you come to them saying “hey, I am not asking for a pool and a mythical creature, but a sink and a creature with four legs that serves a very direct purpose and those are the following; x, y, & z”. Then I bet you your success rates and approvals will dramatically increase.

Because without the tools necessary to lend in the favor of patient safety, prevent liabilities, and minimize time wasting activities you are fighting an uphill battle.