All businesses within the healthcare industry must continuously work to deliver the highest quality care at the lowest cost, all the while considering changes in government regulations, the healthcare environment, patent expectations and advances in technology. This near-constant effort has allowed the healthcare consulting industry to thrive, creating new and unique opportunities for healthcare administrators interested in lending their expertise on a contract basis to hospitals and integrated health systems.
Consulting health administrators specialize in the business of healthcare. They are a vital component of the U.S. healthcare system, providing expertise and support for projects that advance the business of healthcare delivery.
Career Opportunities for Health Administrators in Consulting
Health administrators in consulting firms work alongside client teams to develop practical solutions that deliver sustainable results. Projects in healthcare consulting may vary significantly, covering the full spectrum of strategy, operations, organizations, and mergers and acquisitions.
Consulting health administrators lend their insight and expertise to nearly all areas of healthcare management and administration, including:
- Health information technology
- Healthcare quality standards
- Human resources
- Process improvement
Health systems, managed care organizations, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and many other types of healthcare-related organizations use the expertise of health administrators in consulting firms to:
- Create sustained growth strategies for health systems in both developed and emerging markets
- Create approaches and articulated strategies to ensure successful mergers and acquisitions
- Develop cost-effective and efficient business models
- Adapt marketing strategies to address shifts in the customer landscape
- Design a healthcare system’s strategy for achievement in the marketplace
- Improve product and service innovation among pharmaceutical and medical technology companies
- Implement healthcare IT to lower costs and enhance quality of care
Many types of companies and organizations rely on health administrator consultants:
- Pharmaceutical Companies: Pharmaceutical manufacturers must ensure their products demonstrate measurable cost and quality outcomes in the face of government regulation and increasing prices.
- Medical Technology Companies: Medical technology companies must ensure their products are both cost-effective and innovative, and they must implement effective leadership strategies for emerging markets while addressing the needs of current clients.
- Healthcare Payers and Delivery Systems: Healthcare payers and delivery systems must serve as leaders in the delivery of higher-quality care at a lower cost while building relationships with members and support providers and taking on accountability for patient outcomes and the cost of care.
Degree and Certification Options for Health Administration Consultants
Health administrator consultants must possess a high level of skill and expertise in the administrative functions that ensure fiscal and human resources are best allocated to maximize efficiency and positive outcomes in the delivery of care. Master’s degrees in this field are commonplace and are often what both employers and clients expect.
Master’s Degree in Health Administration
The standard among health administrator consultants is the master’s degree in health administration, which provides students with a competency-based curriculum and a foundation of advanced knowledge in the healthcare system. These programs prepare graduates for careers in healthcare consulting, as well as for leadership positions in hospitals, healthcare systems, and long-term care facilities, among others.
The program structure of a master’s degree in health administration depends on the school or college that houses it; therefore, degree titles may include:
- Master of Business Administration (MBA)
- Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA)
- Master of Public Health (MPH)
- Master of Science (MS)
- Master of Public Administration (MPA)
While many students of these programs possess undergraduate degrees in health administration, many also possess undergrad degrees in areas like finance, human resources, public health, and public policy, among others. Many still come from the healthcare field and hold bachelor’s degrees in areas such as nursing.
The core coursework in a master’s degree in health administration includes:
- Health Policy and Management
- Financial Management Foundations in Healthcare and Public Health
- Health Management Information Systems
- Human Resources Management for Health Care Professionals
- The Politics of Health Policy
Health administrators seeking industry recognition for their expertise in consulting may choose to achieve certification through the National Society for Certified Healthcare Business Consultants.
The Certified Healthcare Business Consultant (CHBC) designation is designed for seasoned business healthcare consultants who have several years of experience in the field. Candidates must take a certification course and pass the related examination.
Salary Expectations for Health Administration Careers in Consulting
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health administrators in consulting earned some of the highest salaries in the profession. As of May 2014, the top earners among health administrators in consulting were in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing ($158,290 on average) and medical device manufacturing ($154,550 on average).
Resources for Health Administrators in Consulting
Health administrators in consulting usually work for consulting firms with healthcare divisions or healthcare-specific firms. Some of the biggest firms in healthcare consulting include:
- The Advisory Board Company
- American Health Consultants
- CoMed Communications, Inc.
- The Corporate Research Group
- Decision Resources, Inc.
- DSS Research
- Ernst & Young – Healthcare Consulting
- Healthcare Management Consultants
- IMS Global Services
- The Lewin Group
- Midwest Research Institute
- Price Waterhouse LLP Managed Care Consulting
- Research & Planning Consultants, Inc.
- Schafer Consulting
- Tiber Group
- Towers Watson
Health administrators in consulting also work for a number of other organizations, including professional organizations, government agencies, and community health organizations:
- American Red Cross
- Academy for Health Services Research and Health Policy
- Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
- K. Kellogg Foundation
- National Association of Health Data Organizations
- National Health Information Center
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation