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What is healthcare management?

Last updated

18 July 2023

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In simpler times, doctors, nurses, and other patient care providers independently managed their administrative affairs. 

However, the ever-evolving healthcare landscape has complicated healthcare management. 

Healthcare management is a behind-the-scenes role responsible for planning, directing, and coordinating nonclinical activities within healthcare systems. 

Let’s learn more about the role, including responsibilities and the ideal healthcare management degree.

What do healthcare managers do? 

Healthcare management professionals aren't directly involved with patient care. Instead, they oversee organizational functions, like: 

  • Strategic planning

  • Budgeting

  • Policymaking

  • Agenda-setting

  • Communicating with insurance providers

These activities ensure quality services, operational efficiency, and maximum profitability. 

Healthcare managers handle the business side of medicine, providing support and direction to ensure enough providers can meet patient needs. They also handle resources like medicine and equipment to treat those patients and the funds to finance it all. 

Healthcare managers also listen to staff needs to ensure the hospital, department, or clinic operates efficiently. 

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Responsibilities of a healthcare manager

Healthcare management is an umbrella term that covers a wide variety of job titles: 

  • Director of rehabilitation

  • Nursing supervisor

  • Health information manager

  • Environmental services manager

  • Executive director

  • Chief operations officer (COO)

  • Chief compliance officer (CCO)

  • Chief executive officer (CEO) 

The responsibilities of healthcare managers vary depending on the type of healthcare setting and the organization's size. 

Most healthcare management professionals focus their day-to-day work on a smaller subset of a healthcare facility's operations. Some focus on billing department operations, while others might have a role dedicated to facilities management or patient scheduling. 

Some of the most common responsibilities for healthcare managers include: 

  • Developing and implementing organizational goals and objectives

  • Researching and executing strategies to improve patient care and service quality

  • Fostering employee engagement and performance

  • Identifying ways to increase operational efficiency

  • Ensuring compliance with patient privacy regulations and federal, state, and local laws

  • Monitoring or managing facility finances and budgets

  • Recruiting, training, and managing medical and administrative staff

  • Working directly with health boards, stakeholders, medical staff, and investors

  • Acting as a spokesperson for the healthcare facility

Key skills for healthcare management jobs

Healthcare managers need to possess a mix of technical, soft, and analytical skills, such as: 

  • Specific knowledge of healthcare operations and technology

  • Management skills like planning, organizing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluation

  • Soft skills such as morale-boosting, collaboration, and proactively implementing changes

Common healthcare management skills include:

Budgeting/billing

Financial planning is necessary for health management, so being familiar with budget spreadsheets, medical billing, and coding is advantageous.

Communication and relationship building

As a healthcare manager, you're the first point of contact for patients, external stakeholders, and other staff members. Building strong relationships and communicating effectively can rally staff behind a common cause and keep the organization running smoothly.

Critical thinking and problem-solving

Healthcare managers are responsible for settling staff disputes, balancing departmental budgets, addressing resource shortages, and handling crises as they arise. You must stay calm, objective, and solutions-focused regardless of how dire the situation may be.

Understanding how health policies, rules, and regulations impact healthcare organizations and population health is essential for operating in the modern healthcare environment. 

Analytical skills

Healthcare managers use data for insights into pain points and to uncover opportunities for improvement. 

While you may not perform data analysis yourself, you must understand how to use the information to identify inefficiencies and other issues and determine the best course of action.

Decision-making

As a healthcare manager, you make important daily decisions affecting patients' health and wellness. Most clinical environments are high-stress and can provoke fear-based decision-making. 

You must remain calm and collected and make smart, strategic, and evidence-based decisions to be an effective healthcare leader. 

Adaptability

Innovation and change happen quickly and constantly within the healthcare industry. 

It’s important to understand the cost/benefit analysis of new technologies, such as diagnostic testing and electronic medical records. These can facilitate evidence-based, cost-effective care improvements.

Adaptability is key as a natural disaster, pandemic, or other emergency could force you to switch gears immediately.

Healthcare management specializations 

In small office settings, healthcare managers are generalists. Larger organizations may have several healthcare managers with different specializations, including: 

Clinical management

Clinical managers specialize in various aspects of the medical field, such as stem cell research, diagnostic products, and medical device development. 

Pharmaceutical companies usually employ them to oversee clinical trials, ensure efficacy and accuracy, and supervise the financial aspects of trials. 

Healthcare consulting

Healthcare consultants have the necessary education and background on healthcare laws, regulations, and policies to help medical organizations run efficiently and effectively. 

Medical entrepreneurship

These healthcare innovators develop new treatments, techniques, drugs, and devices to improve research capabilities and find cures for medical conditions such as cancer. 

They often have a clinical, science, or business background. 

Nursing home management

Nursing home managers supervise day-to-day operations, including medical care, nutritional, social activities, and financial operations of their facility. 

They ensure the facility adheres to state and federal regulations and fosters a safe, healthy environment for workers and residents.

Health insurance underwriting management

They work with billing, reimbursement negotiation, contract renewals, documentation compliance, and patient access. 

Academia

As a healthcare manager, you can enter academia as an assistant or healthcare administration professor. You can teach a specific aspect of healthcare management, such as healthcare law or other topics.

Emergency management

These managers plan for and coordinate emergency response programs and activities. They help individuals, communities, and businesses prevent healthcare emergencies and respond effectively to natural disasters.

Reasons to get a healthcare management degree 

There are several benefits of pursuing a healthcare management degree: 

Many job openings

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of medical and health services managers is projected to grow 28% from 2021 to 2031. This is much faster than the average for all occupations. 

This growth is predicted to result in 56,600 new job openings each year over the decade on average.

Competitive salary

If you pursue a career in healthcare management, you will have great earning potential. 

The average salary in healthcare management is over $101,340 per year, with the top 10% of healthcare managers earning more than $205,620 per year. The lowest 10% averages around $60,780 annually. 

Several factors will affect your salary, such as your location, experience level, and education. As you gain experience within the field, you can expect to expand your earning potential.

Variety of job settings

Healthcare management also offers a lot of flexibility regarding work settings. 

Potential employers include:

  • Large hospitals

  • Governmental and public health offices

  • Mid-sized to large medical practices

  • Labs

  • Imaging centers

  • Research facilities

  • Physician's offices

  • Ambulatory centers

  • Colleges or universities

  • Long-term care facilities

  • Nonprofit healthcare organizations

  • Insurance companies

  • Pharmaceutical companies

Healthcare managers may also consult in a variety of capacities. And increasingly, some of these positions can be remote or hybrid positions.

Community impact

At its core, healthcare management is about taking care of people. Whether you’re working behind the scenes to improve processes and policies or working with community leaders, you can have a positive impact. 

As a manager, you have high-level influence to ensure facilities, services, and initiatives truly benefit the people that need them.

Emotional rewards

As a healthcare manager, you see your impact on the community and patients. Seeing your services and initiatives benefit the people who need them is highly rewarding.

FAQs

What is the highest salary for healthcare management?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest 10% of healthcare managers earn more than $205,620. 

Which course is best for hospital administration?

Most people in healthcare management pursue a bachelor's degree and a graduate degree. These are either in a healthcare-related field, such as nursing management, or in a related discipline, such as a degree in business, HR, or research. 

Some clinical professionals, including therapists, doctors, and nurses, complete this degree later in their careers to perform nonclinical duties or roles. 

Which MBA is best for healthcare management?

MBA in Healthcare Management is the best MBA program if you want to get into mid-upper-level management roles and have higher earnings. 

You'll gain the specialized knowledge and expertise in modern healthcare issues, trends, and tools needed to succeed through an MBA program.

Who is eligible for an MBA in healthcare management in the US?

Students who aspire to pursue a degree in MBA healthcare management must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and professional work experience in hospitals or pharmaceutical companies.

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