Healthcare administration is a broad-ranging field with many healthcare career opportunities for dedicated individuals. The field as a whole is concerned with making the healthcare system run more efficiently while meeting the needs of the general public. Seth Whitmer, a seasoned healthcare administrator, gives an overview of healthcare administration and introduces some specialized careers within the field.
The Mission of Healthcare Administration
While many medical clinics used to be independent physician owned practices, most today have consolidated into larger group practices. While practices used to be directly managed by physicians, this is no longer feasible. This has led to a need for a practice manager to deal with such pressing concerns as billing, insurance, and other administrative tasks. Healthcare administrators can work on the individual level, such as practice management, or they can be in charge of large hospital networks. Healthcare administrators are also needed in nursing homes and in-home health agencies. The scalability of the field allows for many different healthcare career opportunities for interested individuals.
Some of the most important functions of the healthcare administrator are managing billing and managing insurance. Other crucial functions include scheduling and managing the support staff who are integral to the mission of the physician’s office or healthcare system.
History of Healthcare Administration
Healthcare administration has developed along with advances in the science of medicine and the growth of hospital networks. Before the early twentieth century, most wealthy people were cared for at home, while indigent people were cared for by the hospital system. As medical science developed, as in the discovery of antibiotics and anesthesia, the hospital became more important to the healthcare system as a whole.
In 1916, the first hospital and nursing administration programs became popular. In 1929, a seminal book was published entitled Hospital Administration, A Career. The book laid the case for trained hospital executives for a growing business which even then was worth about a billion dollars a year. The University of Chicago offered the first formal two-year graduate program. These programs spread throughout the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.
As of the present day, there are many fine programs offering degrees in healthcare management and administration. Doctorates, master’s degrees, and bachelor’s degrees are offered, though people who are interested in advancing in the ranks should consider master’s and doctorate programs first. The healthcare career prospects for people with bachelor’s degrees may be limited.
The Healthcare Administration Field Today
Many exciting changes have occurred in the field of healthcare administration. First, hospitals have grown to become complex organizations. Medical technology has advanced in an incredible progression over the past hundred years, allowing patients who would surely have succumbed to their illnesses in the past to live fulfilling lives today.
Healthcare financing has become more complex, with the private pay system of years past giving way to the complicated health insurance-based system we see today. The government has also taken on more of a role in healthcare funding through its Medicaid and Medicare programs.
Even though significant changes have happened in the past century, the core tasks of healthcare management have remained the same. The field has kept its focus on financial and business matters concerning hospitals, individual practices, and other health institutions. These organizations require efficient management. Financial stability is one of the key points that healthcare administrators must address.
Crucial Skill Sets
There are many crucial skill sets involved in healthcare administration. Human resources are particularly important, with doctors, nurses, and other support staff needing to be hired and managed. Financial management, such as the role of CFOs and accountants, is absolutely essential to these organizations. Without proper care given to finances, the organizations will become insolvent and unable to help anyone.
Healthcare organizations must also collect and analyze data to judge how well they are performing in relation to certain benchmarks. Data analysis personnel may be concerned with patient outcomes or with the effectiveness of certain financial measures on the overall strength of the hospital system.
They must be able to plan strategically for the future, taking financial and demographic factors into account. When they plan for the future, they will be able to meet demands based on changes in the health and regulatory spheres.
Healthcare administrators need to pay close attention to marketing as well, which adds to its interest as a healthcare career. Marketing may be on an individual basis, such as referrals from one doctor to another, and it may involve the entire hospital system. Marketing plans that reflect the needs of the organization should be made. Print, television, online, and radio are the four areas which marketing commonly focuses on.
Healthcare administrators also have the responsibility to care for people who are undergoing some of the most difficult times in their lives. Management staff needs to have an attitude of compassion and care for the patients they deal with. Healthcare administrators are responsible for the social and moral order of their organizations. They are also needed to be patient advocates. The function of arbitration within the healthcare organization is a vital one, since sometimes their priorities may be different. Professional groups also need to be integrated into the healthcare system.
The healthcare administrator faces several challenges that have developed over the past few decades. First, the aging of the American population means that more healthcare professionals will be needed. Coupled with a shortage of doctors and nurses, this situation may soon reach crisis levels. The constant rise in healthcare costs is another serious problem facing administrators. They need to know how to keep costs in check while providing quality services to the public.
Medical technology is changing at a rapid pace, and administrators need to keep up. Particularly in billing and marketing, these challenges need to be met.
Healthcare Administration Works for the Common Good
Seth Whitmer encourages all interested individuals to look into joining the field of healthcare administration. While a healthcare career is challenging, it is incredibly rewarding to know that you have made a difference in so many people’s lives.