Widely considered one of today’s most dynamic fields, healthcare administration accounts for nearly 100,000 jobs in the United States according to a 2014 report from the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).
Professionals in healthcare administration work in a wide array of settings and hold various levels of authority, ranging from clinical manager to chief executive officer.
These senior-level administrative positions demand professionals with the expertise necessary to navigate the challenges of a complex and swiftly changing healthcare system. Skilled professionals that are up for the challenge will find jobs in healthcare administration to be incredibly gratifying, stimulating, and finically rewarding.
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Trends in Healthcare Administration Careers
Healthcare management jobs are evolving, and are now more diverse and specialized than ever. According to the American College of Healthcare Executives, professionals in healthcare administration have an opportunity to make significant contributions to our nation’s healthcare system due to a rapidly changing environment influenced by:
- The growth of managed care
- The integration of healthcare delivery organizations
- Advances in medical technology
- Better-informed patients demanding high-quality care
- The pressure to control costs and demonstrate the value of delivered services
- Efforts to implement continuous quality improvement initiatives
- An aging baby boomer population
- An increased emphasis on disease prevention and wellness promotion
Today’s healthcare executives work in a wide variety of settings, including:
- Consulting firms
- Hospitals and hospital systems
- Ambulatory care facilities
- Home health agencies
- Integrated delivery systems
- Managed care organizations
- Healthcare associations
- Public health departments
- Mental health organizations
- Long-term care facilities
- Medical group practices
- University or research institutions
Job Descriptions in Healthcare Administration
Shown here are the most common career paths available in the field of healthcare administration. Working at different levels and within different types of systems and organizations, each profession within the field is focused on increasing the quality, accessibility and efficiency of healthcare:
Chief Executive Officers
Chief executive officers (CEOs), one of the most high-profile executive positions in healthcare administration, are responsible for overseeing the actions required to achieve the health system’s short- and long-term business objectives. These top executives develop corporate policies and procedures and provide guidance regarding their implementation in order to ensure the viability of the health system.
Chief Operating Officers
Chief operating officers (COOs) serve as managers of the healthcare system’s operations. These professionals, often considered the second highest executives in healthcare administration just below the CEO, ensure the implementation of operations necessary for achieving the system’s short- and long-term goals and business objectives.
Chief Financial Officers
Chief financial officers (CFOs) plan, coordinate, and oversee the financial affairs of the health system, including accounting, budgeting, reimbursement, etc. Their work also includes establishing and implementing standards and policies that align with accounting practices.
Chief Medical Officers
Chief medical officers oversee the planning and coordination of the medical affairs of a hospital, whether system-owned or freestanding. They establish and implement standards and policies that align with the goals of both medical staff and the hospital, while working to ensure that the medical staff complies with all legal and regulatory requirements.
Patient Care/Nursing Executives
Patient care executives organize, plan, direct, and evaluate all nursing functions and patient care services. This may include social services, emergency medicine, mental health services, respiratory care services, etc. These professionals often recommend and implement policies and procedures designed to improve upon the quality and delivery of patient care.
Managed Care Executives
Managed care executives plan, evaluate, and implement managed care programs for a healthcare system. In addition to negotiating contracts with managed care companies and health plans, they establish quality and financial performance standards for managed care contracts to ensure their continued success.
Human Resources Executives
Top human resources executives in healthcare administration oversee the development and implementation of system-wide human resources policies and programs related to any number of issues, such as:
- Compensation and benefits
- Employee/labor relations
- Education and training
- Employee health and safety
Professional Services Executives
Professional services executives organize, plan, direct, and evaluate a hospital’s professional functions, which may include everything from laboratory services to diagnostic imaging to rehabilitation to pharmacy services. Similar healthcare administration executives include:
- Support Services Executives: Oversee the hospital’s support functions (e.g., housekeeping, maintenance, security, dietary services, etc.)
- Ambulatory Services Executives: Oversee the hospital’s non-emergency care services (e.g., outpatient clinics, outpatient surgery, urgent care centers, etc.)
- Facilities Executives: Oversee all departments and functions related to the hospital’s maintenance, equipment, grounds, and building operations
Categorizing and Classifying Jobs in Healthcare Administration
The American College of Healthcare Executives classifies jobs in healthcare administration in two areas:
- Managed Care
- Acute Care
Managed care describes healthcare systems that deliver services in ways that improve quality and control costs. The major duties of healthcare administration professionals in managed care include:
- Assembling and maintaining networks of providers that deliver services
- Marketing services as a health plan
- Supplying financial services
- Evaluating services
Healthcare administration professionals in managed care may find career opportunities at the entry, middle, and senior levels within managed care provider organizations (e.g., hospitals and health systems).
The most common types of managed care health plans include point-of-service plans (POS), preferred provider organizations (PPOs), and health maintenance organizations (HMOs).
Acute care describes the diagnosis and treatment of sudden or unexpected injuries or illnesses, with the primary goal of saving lives, restoring health, and leading efforts to improve the health and well being of communities.
Hospitals continue to employ the largest number of professionals in healthcare administration, with many medical professionals transitioning into acute care management.
Professionals in hospital administration may work for multi-hospital systems, freestanding facilities, and sole community facilities, all of which may include long-term care facilities, rehabilitation facilities, physician practices, and ambulatory care facilities, among many others.