Novant Health adds chief payer performance officer

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Novant Health hired a chief payer performance officer, which experts say seems to be a novel role among health system C-suites.

Erik Helms, who was chief performance officer for Buckeye Health Plan, will oversee Novant’s payer relationships and pricing strategy. Executive compensation and governance experts said they hadn’t seen that specific positions carved out by health systems.

Health system executive roles ebb and flow year to year. Technology, population health, reimbursement and telehealth have been relatively new additions to the health system C-suite, but some will naturally rise or wane.

Hospitals are now required to publish their payer-negotiated prices for hundreds of their services, although compliance has been spotty. Novant said that the role reflects its commitment to value-based care. Adoption of capitation and other payment models that tie reimbursement to outcomes is growing among some health systems, but it has largely been slow or stagnant across the industry.

“This role will serve as a partner to our clinical teams as we move toward being paid based on our quality outcomes, rather than the quantity of care we give patients,” John Gizdic, chief business development officer at Novant, told Modern Healthcare, adding that cost shouldn’t impede access.

C-suites seem to be slowly expanding across health systems. There were an estimated 36 executive positions across U.S. health systems in 2017, according to data from SullivanCotter, a compensation consulting firm. That incrementally grew to 42 in 2019 and slightly leveled out to 39 last year.

While SullivanCotter didn’t have data on the specific chief payer performance officer title, a lead reimbursement executive was a new addition to the health system ranks in 2019.

Novant was more profitable in 2020 even without factoring in COVID-19 relief grants, mirroring some of the country’s biggest health systems. Those who tended to visit hospitals were the sickest, yielding higher reimbursement, and more than expected were covered by commercial insurers, executives said.

Novant reported an operating income of $188.5 million on $5.68 billion of operating revenue in 2020, up from $155.5 million of operating income on $5.44 billion of operating revenue in 2019.

Listen to Modern Healthcare’s Beyond the Byline for more analysis on why some health systems were more profitable during the pandemic.

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