Healthcare workers are compassionate individuals who have devoted their lives to helping others maintain optimal wellness. These heroic members of the workforce need healthcare managers to ensure hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities run efficiently. The Healthcare Management profession is vital.
With an aging population, new medical advances, and the current strain on medical workers, there will continue to be a high demand for strong leaders who are able to handle the day-to-day business aspects of managing multi-tiered health care systems. Healthcare managers work behind the scenes to help reduce the costs of medical care, and they make appointments, hospital stays, and long-term treatments accessible for more people.
What is Healthcare Management?
Healthcare managers work in vast settings, including hospitals, physician’s offices, nursing home facilities, government agencies, outpatient health centers, and health insurance corporations. Some of the largest health organizations in the world include the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control.
Most positions are within an office setting, but some days may be split between the office and interfacing with the public at patient advocacy events, hospital board meetings, and representing the medical facility they are employed by. Healthcare managers also collaborate with physicians, the head of multiple hospital departments, and in some cases, insurance companies.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for medical and health services managers in 2019 was over $100,900, and the highest 10% earned over $189,000. Medical managers for government agencies had the highest annual median salary at approximately $111,500, and the lowest median annual salary sitting around $86,800 for managers in nursing and residential care facilities.
Some health managers are paid hourly, which has the potential for high earnings from filling on-call shifts. Since hospitals and nursing homes operate 24/7, healthcare managers should be prepared to work weekends and outside of the standard 9 AM-5 PM business hours when needed. Additionally, healthcare managers have competitive benefits packages featuring health insurance and often healthcare on-site, 401K matching, and generous paid vacation time.
Responsibilities vary greatly from role to role, but some typical job functions performed include managing the budget of a healthcare system, lead marketing efforts, maintaining up-to-date records of a facility’s services, and communicating policy updates to employees. It is imperative for healthcare managers to have superior communication skills, as well as attention to detail, because they juggle many different duties in a fast-paced environment, with no room for error. These tasks may seem intimidating at first, but healthcare managers of larger health systems will most likely be assigned assistant administrators and work as part of a cohesive team.
Within a larger organization, managers may serve in a particular specialty such as care coordination, finance/budget, health information, legal and policy compliance, insurance, or personnel. Though the work is complex, most healthcare managers find their contributions to the health industry very rewarding. Each day brings a new set of exciting challenges, allowing healthcare managers to be innovative problem solvers.
What is the History of Healthcare Management?
Since the beginning of time, doctors have been practicing medicine, but the evolution of healthcare administration is a relatively new phenomenon that began about 120 years ago. The number of hospitals increased from 170 to over 7,000 between 1875 and 1925.
In 1899, the Association of Hospital Superintendents was established by a group of eight hospital superintendents. These medical pioneers saw a need for better communication practices amongst hospital administrators and to lower costs associated with patient care. This organization has since changed its name to the American Hospital Association to be more inclusive of other medical professions but maintains the same mission.
The University of Chicago offered the first official health systems management program in 1934. Many other universities quickly followed in UC’s footsteps to fill the growing need of highly trained healthcare management professionals.
Medicare was established in 1965, providing much needed medical insurance for anyone over 65 years old. The Affordable Care Act was initiated in 2010 during Obama’s administration and made health insurance available for 34 million individuals. With more affordable healthcare options, more medical facilities were built. According to the American Hospital Association, there are currently nearly 6,000 registered hospitals, so HCM professionals continue to remain in high demand.
How do students best prepare for Healthcare Management?
Healthcare Management is a highly competitive career field. While some junior colleges offer associate’s degrees in healthcare management, most healthcare manager roles require a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. The most highly esteemed programs will be distinguished with accreditation from The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education.
Undergraduate students interested in learning about the business behind medicine can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management. Some of the courses might include Healthcare Delivery Systems and Compliance, Healthcare Quality and Risk Management, Technology Applications in Healthcare, and Healthcare Values and Ethics. Many degrees offer the option to select a career-enhancing concentration such as Health Information Systems and Technology Management, Long-Term Care, Leadership and Management, Community Public Health, and Medical Practice Management.
Graduates of a bachelor’s program will be well prepared to succeed in entry-level careers. Job titles associated with entry-level roles from graduates of a baccalaureate program include insurance contract negotiator, medical office business manager, managed care representative, or lab facility manager. To increase marketability, students can add a specialized certification to become a Certified Medical Manager, Compliance Technician, Revenue Cycle Professional, Revenue Integrity Professional, or Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems.
Students interested in climbing the healthcare ladder to an executive-level leadership role can earn a Master of Healthcare Administration or a Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Management. Both degrees feature foundational business courses such as accounting, marketing, finance, economics, and human resources management.
The main difference between the two programs is the MHA will emphasize administration in a healthcare setting. In contrast, the curriculum for the MBA will generally feature a more broad-based set of business core courses, and approximately 12-credit hours of electives focused on healthcare management. These degrees can be customized with concentrations in Business Administration, Public Health Administration, or Information Systems and Technology Management.
Some professions may have additional requirements, so it is important students find a degree that meets employment prerequisites. For example, nursing home administrators are required to obtain licensure for their state. Healthcare management may also be a great next step for someone who has already had a successful career as a registered nurse or licensed social worker and is seeking a new challenge.
Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Healthcare Management are offered in-person or online. Students without professional work experience may find the on-campus option is better for them due to classroom discussions, more interaction with professors, and opportunities to network. Working adults may enjoy the flexibility offered by a distance learning program.
Most graduate programs can be completed within two and three years. Many split the time between learning principles and theories and then a supervised hands-on experience, such as an in-depth semester of consulting for a health agency. Many graduate students already have a decade or more of professional healthcare experience, so when coupled with an MHA or MBA degree, their dreams of becoming a Hospital Chief Executive Officer or Chief Financial Officer are within reach.
Healthcare Management student organizations include the American College of Health Care Administrators, Healthcare Management Student Association, National Association of Healthcare Access Management, and the American Health Information Management Association. High-achieving students will be invited to join Upsilon Phi Delta, a prestigious honor society for talented healthcare administration students. These organizations feature professional mentoring, conferences, career panels, and guest lecture series.
Even after earning a healthcare management degree, it is important to stay current on the best healthcare management practices. Professional organizations serve as a great resource for ongoing professional development endeavors and networking opportunities. Reputable organizations to consider becoming a member of include the Health Care Administrators Association, the Healthcare Business Management Association, and the Healthcare Financial Management Association.
It is also a great idea to get hands-on experience through an internship or entry-level position while working on obtaining your degree to boost your resume. The internship is the perfect way to test-drive a particular sector of healthcare management.
While a hospital or nursing home may seem like the most obvious internship sites, there are several out-of-the-box options, too. Government health agencies or national health organizations such as the American Red Cross are great sites for students interested in healthcare policy. Tech-savvy students may enjoy utilizing their skills at an electronic medical records company. There is also a rapidly emerging need for home healthcare, and interns who pursue this route will stand out amongst other candidates. It’s important for students to begin internships early in their academic experience, so they can explore many different careers and build an arsenal of applicable healthcare management skills.
Key attributes employers are seeking in candidates include analytical, interpersonal, leadership, and technical skills. An intern with a glowing recommendation from their internship supervisor may lead to a full-time career offer. Internship positions can be hard to obtain, so students may want to build a strong rapport within the medical community by volunteering first.
Though unpaid, volunteer experience gives students many of the same benefits, such as an expanded professional network, acquisition of new skills, the ability to make a difference directly or indirectly in improving patients’ health, and will position students ahead of the next set of internship applicants.
Hospital volunteers can offer administrative support, maintain the hospital website, or participate in fundraising efforts. Volunteer opportunities also exist in pharmacies, nursing homes, and home health or hospice agencies. The Red Cross accepts volunteers to run campaigns to recruit blood donors, serve as a board member, or develop grant proposals. Pharmacy volunteers may be tasked with keeping accurate records of supply and medication inventory. Volunteers of hospice agencies may prepare marketing brochures, complete data entry, call families interested in receiving more information, and serve as a representative at community outreach events.
Students can add a free ombudsmen certificate to their repertoire while volunteering at nursing homes. The average requirements include 36 hours of training and a three-month internship. Ombudsman advocates for nursing home residents through research of complaints related to living conditions and patient treatment by staff members. After gaining volunteer experience, the ombudsman can actually get paid for their services.
What are the future trends in Healthcare Management?
Healthcare Management is a wise choice for those seeking a nearly recession-proof career industry. The recent coronavirus pandemic has shuttered many businesses nationwide, but hospitals across the country have reached or are approaching maximum capacity. In fact, this health crisis has created the need for brand new positions, perfectly suited for those who are already seasoned healthcare managers, as well as for those who are looking to make a career transition to a more meaningful line of work.
According to Glassdoor, job listings have tripled in the field of healthcare since the beginning of the outbreak. While some elective surgeries have been placed on pause, and healthcare managers who supported dentist offices and chiropractor practices may have lost their job, they have the essential skills to be fast-tracked into a new position.
The rapid addition of COVID testing-sites added healthcare project manager roles. In adherence with recommended health guidelines, many places of employment have added required daily temperature screenings for all employees, with COVID Screener Managers responsible for overseeing inventory of medical supplies, creating screener schedules, and billing companies for these services. Additionally, contact tracing has recently seen a surge in job openings. Just like with any other healthcare position, these employees need team leads and program managers who can supervise all responsibilities ranging from training to establishing proper policies in previously uncharted territory.
With hospitals and nursing homes scrambling to fill a growing shortage of nurses and other frontline personnel, there has also been an influx of recruiting performed by Healthcare Managers.
Technology has allowed many healthcare managers to work from home, conducting meetings and training through teleconferencing platforms such as Zoom, scanning medical documents, and sending secure encrypted medical records. Healthcare facilities are noticing that in most cases, healthcare managers currently working from home are maintaining a level of productivity comparable or even exceeding their previous work quantity in the office. This may extend work-from-home opportunities well beyond when we no longer have the imminent daily threat of contracting coronavirus.
The flexibility to work from home may be an attractive incentive for employees trying to manage work with family responsibilities. Healthcare managers may still need to report to the office periodically for audits, staff evaluations, and patient observations.
If just the thought of taking an office hiatus excites you, polish your resume and begin applying for flex healthcare management positions. You could become a Senior Cloud Architect for Aetna, a Clinical Compliance Medical Director for Anthem, or a Business Analysis Senior Advisor for CVS Health. Some other positions recently listed in 2020 include Customer Development Manager for Johnson & Johnson, Implementation Coordinator for Doctors on Demand, and a Telephonic Clinical Administrative Coordinator for UnitedHealth Group. Employers benefit from a reduction in office operations expenses, so keep your eye out for even more remote jobs in the near future.
Innovative technology will also lead to the creation of new jobs that may still seem a bit futuristic today but will become common within the next decade. Dassault Systemes, a leader in cutting-edge 3D and virtual technology, has estimated if all patients chose virtual medical services it could save the United States over seven billion dollars in healthcare, making healthcare accessible for all, freeing up thousands of hours for doctors, and making wait time for an appointment much shorter.
In an age of skyrocketing medical costs, virtual healthcare may be the solution. Healthcare Managers will need to manage virtual scheduling, billing, data entry, and patient forms online for these new services and procedures.
Some of the other exciting new practices on the horizon of healthcare management include the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence. For example, smartwatches and other wearable devices could alert emergency services if someone needs immediate medical attention. Medical robots could help with initial medical assessments. The many uses for AI will create new roles for experts in this matter.
Another position that will be cropping up is for a healthcare data analyst. This role will entail analyzing individual patients’ information to help paint a better health picture of entire populations, as well as interpreting data on medication usage, work schedules for doctors, estimating when it will be necessary to replace medical equipment. These positions are predicted to have a shortage due to the complexities of data analysis.
Health insurance data analysts are also necessary to better serve patients. These analysts would customize health insurance packages based on previous medical conditions, as well as helping patients determine the correct physician to see to receive care for a specific health problem. Blockchain technology will also make it more convenient for patients to locate their medical records by storing all information on a digital platform that doctors can easily view. It would also make it difficult for records to be tampered with.
Skills in these developing areas will likely be filled by specialists. It is also important for other HCM professions to be knowledgeable about these practices, too, since smaller health organizations may have managers covering a wide range of responsibilities.
Many business schools will only offer virtual or hybrid schedules during the fall 2020 semester due to health concerns, with the exception of hands-on skills-based labs and technical career training courses. However, the majority of business schools have offered distance learning options for years, so the transition should be fairly seamless. Schools already worked out many of the kinks in the spring when they had to transform from a brick-and-mortar setting to an online platform almost overnight. Schools that do open for in-person instruction may have to close if students or faculty become infected or if there is an outbreak within the community.
Admissions requirements may be loosened, with several schools waiving standardized tests such as the ACT, SAT, GRE, and GMAT. Students who were financially impacted by coronavirus may be eligible for special scholarships and application fee waivers. It may not be possible for students to complete international internships or study abroad programs this school year, but many virtual opportunities have become available.
Students can work on consulting projects with a health agency through virtual meetings. Club meetings, networking events, and job fairs may also be held virtually during the 2020-2021 school year. Healthcare management students have created apps to track the likelihood of contracting COVID, raised funds for medical supplies, and created websites to spread awareness of safety precautions.
Regardless of the challenges posed by COVID 19, business schools are dedicated to equipping students with 21st-century career skills. The curriculum for HCM programs places emphasis on the latest trends in medical technology, with courses on electronic health records and data analytics. AI is also a hot topic in health classes. Universities have responded to healthcare systems requests for emotional intelligence skills through group projects simulating real-world scenarios with HCM students collaborating with peers from other majors, just like the multiple departments in a hospital.
Business schools also offer co-curricular workshops on professionalism and leadership topics, such as Challenging Conversations with Patients, Communicating Effectively on Healthcare Teams, and Improving Patients Experiences. These interpersonal skills will help students empathize with patients and approach healthcare from a values-based perspective.
The future of healthcare looks bright, and healthcare managers will continue to improve upon the patients’ experience. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the projected growth for healthcare managers is 18% between 2018 and 2028. The projected growth rate for management careers in other industries is only 6%, so students pursuing an HCM degree will have a lot of career prospects.
Professions that are anticipated to see the most growth include eldercare managers, health information managers, healthcare consultants, hospital administrators, and public health administrators. There will also be significant growth of jobs in the field of environmental health, emergency/disaster management, and healthcare professionals and managers with experience in technology and data.
With the constant influx of change and advancement, healthcare management is a consistent leadership need in the healthcare sector. Whether you are looking for advancement in a current healthcare career or pursuing a career change in this integral field, now is the time to prepare for your next education and career steps.
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