Academy: Direct relevance

by Alison Myles

Healthcare Finance technical, 26 February 2019

HFMA director of education Alison Myles says the association’s qualifications could help tackle the challenges posed by the NHS long-term plan

The HFMA postgraduate qualifications are not simply academic exercises in broadening students’ general understanding of healthcare business and finance. Their content is directly relevant to the challenges the NHS faces in delivering the NHS long-term plan, published at the start of the year.

Feedback from students has already indicated that they are able to apply what they are learning in their day-to-day roles within the NHS. And there are specific areas of content that have a direct read-across to the long-term plan.

For example, the plan says that delivery of its vision will rely on local health systems having the capability to implement change effectively. This, it suggests, will demand that the service develops its quality improvement skills and data analytics. There is also a big focus on delivering value and moving to population health management.

The Tools to support decision-making module – one of six optional modules that underpin the HFMA’s advanced and advanced higher diplomas – clearly supports the aim to improve data literacy and the use of data. It will help those providing information to inform the decision-making of others to think about the usefulness of the data being provided and whether it is presented in the best format. And it will help decision-makers to think more about the information they are being provided.

It covers the different types of information tools that people might come across and also discusses the importance of patient-level cost data. Increasingly, patient-level cost data is being used to help understand variation and address it where it is unwarranted.

Cost data – currently extracted from healthcare resource group level reference costs – already underpins the growing Model Hospital system (soon to be the Model Health System, according to the long-term plan) and the aim is for this to be refreshed with much more granular patient-level cost data.

In line with this, all functions within the NHS need a better appreciation of the importance of accurate cost data and how it can inform improvement – and the Tools to support decision-making module helps to deliver this (with a separate module available for those wanting a much deeper understanding of the costing process and using cost data).

The module also goes on to talk about the investment/disinvestment process, business planning, ethical and professional considerations and negotiation.

The level 7 qualification’s Creating and delivering value in healthcare module is also
on-message for the direction of travel laid out in the long-term plan. The plan puts a major emphasis on improving outcomes, while also addressing variation and efficiency.

In a nutshell, this equates to delivering value-based healthcare – ensuring all decisions deliver the optimum value taking account of outcomes (in terms of clinical effectiveness, patient experience and safety) and costs.

The plan’s push towards integrated care systems taking collective responsibility for population health also requires value-based decision-making at the system level. For example, changes in service delivery and pathways need to be considered in terms of the outcomes and costs delivered across the whole local population, not just at the level of organisations.

To date, the advanced qualifications have attracted some 150 students, whether to take an individual module or a diploma – with a handful of people now studying for the full MBA. Finance professionals are in a slight majority within these students, but there are significant numbers of clinicians and non-finance managers also studying. A better understanding of decision-making tools and value are relevant across the board.

We believe these students, if successful, will not only enhance their own academic credentials but learn skills that will increase the service’s ability to deliver the long-term plan.