Healthcare administrators – also known as healthcare executives or health services managers – are responsible for planning, coordinating and supervising the functions of healthcare facilities and their staffs. They are responsible for managing hospitals, specific departments or clinical areas within hospitals, medical and diagnostic laboratories, private medical practices, and other medical facilities.
A career in healthcare administration can be both professionally and financially rewarding, as employment opportunities in the field are expected to grow for the foreseeable future. The job, however, also comes with its fair share of challenges, especially in today’s healthcare arena.
As the person ultimately responsible for overseeing accountability with insurance companies, assisting in the transition to paperless records, implementing and altering policies in the face of new laws and regulations, advocating for patients, and recruiting employees, a healthcare administrator needs to keep up with the pulse of the healthcare industry in order to be successful.
Healthcare Administrator Core Competencies
A particular set of skills define professional healthcare administrators, who should be able to communicate clearly and respectfully with patients, customers, industry leaders, partners, department heads and hospital workers. They also need to create meaningful relationships with peers while staying on top of healthcare system policies, the latest innovations in healthcare technology, and the ever-changing political landscape in the industry.
Having a strong grasp on business principles is imperative because healthcare entities are run more like businesses than ever before, and administrators should understand how to run their institutions with business savvy and possess a deep understanding of systems thinking and financial management.
Facing Economic Challenges Head On
Healthcare accounts for an annual total revenue of $1.668 trillion, or 20 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). In the face of escalating costs, an aging population, rising chronic health conditions, and a shortage of healthcare professionals, the healthcare industry continues to look for new ways to maximize resources and increase efficiency in order to achieve more effective patient care. By understanding these challenges, healthcare administrators can work out effective plans to manage these difficulties.
Perhaps most importantly, healthcare administrators must recognize the possibility of financial challenges among their patients. Educating consumers about their coverage and allowing them to set up payment plans for treatment in certain situations allows them to obtain the treatment they need without facing unnecessary financial complications. Many people are underinsured or do not have insurance, and healthcare administrators should recognize the potential complications facing patients who come to their facilities for medical treatment.
The way in which medical treatment is paid for also remains fluid. A portion of the costs associated with healthcare services are paid by insurance providers and public sector programs, while consumers pay a portion of the treatment costs based on their specific co-payment rate and co-insurance. Healthcare administrators need to work closely with insurance providers to determine a fair cost for treatment. Patients can better determine an appropriate course of action when injured or facing high-cost treatments when they understand their policies, and healthcare administrators should make it possible for patients to work with insurance providers by accepting a wide variety of policy options.
A broad spectrum of health insurance policies is currently available through employer-sponsored programs and the private sector. According to the Brookings Institution, the number of Americans enrolled in conventional health insurance plans from an employer-sponsored program has dropped significantly. As the rise in private sector insurance policies has grown almost 50 percent, only about 1 percent of Americans are enrolled in a conventional health policy.
As a result, individuals and families do not always choose the right policies for their situations, and they do not always have the information available to make educated decisions about the best course of treatment and care. Healthcare administrators need to understand the potential pitfalls associated with this trend, and they should educate their patients about their coverage and assist them when they ask for help selecting an appropriate policy for their specific needs.
When setting up financial systems in their facilities, healthcare administrators should be cognizant of these challenges and set up a system that works to expedite the needs of their patients, while also allowing the medical facility to provide the care their patients expect and deserve.
In the end, healthcare administrators who understand the challenges and changing nuances of what has become a complex industry are better equipped to succeed in their jobs.