Last updated on September 26th, 2023.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many painful realities, not least of which is the loss of work and/or disruption of a career path for millions of Americans. While the news has been bleak across many industries, the need for more healthcare workers has been dire in many hotspot areas. This has many professionals looking into healthcare-related fields, with healthcare management one of the more enticing-sounding options, but what exactly is it?
Healthcare management is the overall management of a healthcare facility, such as a hospital, rehab center, or clinic. It is an attractive profession for people who want to be involved in healthcare without having to be involved with direct patient contact.
As a healthcare manager, you will oversee the day-to-day activities of the medical facility. This is included, but not limited to, setting schedules for medical practitioners, balancing the facility’s budget, ensuring that the medical facility meets the community’s needs, and making sure the practitioners’ professional goals are being met.
What is Healthcare Management All About?
Healthcare management is very much like its name sounds: it is the overall management of a healthcare facility. Much as the manager of a restaurant is responsible for the smooth function of all aspects of the restaurant, so too does the healthcare manager ensure that the medical facility operates without a hitch.
While management roles are desirable for those who like to be “out of the muck” of constant interaction with consumers (patients, in the case of healthcare fields), the healthcare manager does much more on a day-to-day basis than simply pat his or her doctors and nurses on the back and tell them they are doing a great job. A few of the many responsibilities of the healthcare manager includes:
- Setting schedules – Like managers across most industries, the healthcare manager is responsible for setting staff and medical practitioners’ schedules. This is an incredibly demanding task within a healthcare facility as many buildings need 24-hour coverage with specific team members who have the requisite education, training, and credentials.
- Budgeting – The healthcare manager will be responsible for meeting with the administrators and/or heads of the various departments within the facility and getting a feel for their needs. For example, suppose the nursing department needs more overnight help. In that case, the healthcare manager will need to figure out if the necessary support is temporary or permanent and what kinds of funds are available to bring in more nurses.
- Serving as the “face” of the facility – As a senior person within the facility, the healthcare manager will be a primary point of contact for critical issues. Examples may include serving as the spokesperson for the facility when addressing the media or dealing with a large-scale complaint about a safety concern within the building.
- Performance evaluations – Like managers across other industries, the healthcare manager will be responsible for delivering performance evaluations to specified staff. While the healthcare manager may not have the technical expertise to evaluate all medical practitioners properly, they will collaborate with administrators or senior members of specific departments to ensure that the overall facility is operating satisfactorily.
- Job descriptions – When hiring new staff and employees, the healthcare manager will be responsible for narrowing down the facility’s needs, capturing those needs in a professionally created job description, and taking the lead in identifying and recruiting qualified professionals to fill the roles.
- Ensuring the facility meets community needs – Medical facilities must be profitable to continue to operate at optimal levels. One of the best ways to ensure that a facility remains profitable is meeting the community’s needs. The healthcare manager must be ingrained in the neighborhood and understand essential demographics and business needs to ensure that the facility can provide the kind of care that the community desires.
- Helping employees meet their goals – One important aspect of being in a managerial role is helping your employees advance in their careers. This could involve assisting part-time administrative employees in finishing school and moving up in their careers or ensuring that doctors and surgeons practice the type of medicine they want.
- Billing – While the healthcare manager may not be directly responsible for billing patients and collecting payments, he or she will be instrumental in researching and purchasing billing and payroll software and ensuring that the building’s overall technological infrastructure is streamlining the process of collecting payment.
- Insurance – The healthcare manager will be instrumental in helping decide which insurances to accept and will meet with healthcare administrators to determine what kind of rates to charge for insurance contract procedures.
- Social media – In this day and age, you do not really have a business unless you have a social media presence. The healthcare manager will be responsible for overseeing the social media plan for the facility.
As you can see, the healthcare manager plays a pivotal role in many essential functions within a healthcare facility. While their level of involvement may vary from building to building, depending on the size, he or she will at least have some say in all the areas listed above, with more responsibilities likely possible.
There are likely to be multiple levels of healthcare management for sizeable national healthcare chains with hundreds of managers spread out across the company’s reach, with titles such as hospital administrator, executive director, or public health director. These are among the titles of positions that may serve the same function as a healthcare manager.
What is the Purpose of Healthcare Management?
Healthcare management allows everyone in the hospital system to focus on what they are good at. Rather than have doctors and nurses worry about filing paperwork, balancing the budget, and hiring building receptionists, they can focus their energy and concentration on what they have been trained to do in their specific niche area of expertise.
In this way, healthcare management can add efficiency and minimize waste to a medical building. A surgeon can perform his or her procedures at a much greater rate on surgery day if a healthcare manager has prepared the staff, schedule, equipment, and facility, so all they have to do on surgery day is show up and start operating.
Through this increased efficiency, everyone in the building is doing what they are good at, which means more can get done in the same amount of time with the fewest possible resources, which ultimately makes well-managed facilities more profitable than poorly managed buildings.
What is the Difference Between Healthcare Administration and Healthcare Management?
The difference between healthcare administration and healthcare management is subtle. In smaller facilities, the terms may be interchanged with little difference in the roles of the healthcare professionals operating under each title. However, there is a definite distinction between the two in large medical facilities and national-level healthcare chains.
A healthcare manager is more concerned with the “big picture” of the entire healthcare organization or facility. In national healthcare chains, healthcare managers may be responsible for the decisions pertaining to multiple buildings. They will be making their decisions with an organization-wide view.
For example, a healthcare manager would be concerned with how allocating resources to one building or department may affect another building or department.
A healthcare administrator performs many of the same functions of a healthcare manager, only with a much narrower focus. He or she may be responsible for managing the budget and overseeing the staff in a specific department within the larger facility or system. For example, a healthcare administrator may oversee the nursing department at Hospital XYZ.
While both healthcare administrators and healthcare managers must have good business and leadership skills, the healthcare manager is more strictly a business-oriented profession. On the other hand, it is important that healthcare administrators have at least some level of technical expertise in the department in which they work.
What Skills Are Needed for Healthcare Management?
There is no limit to the skills that could make you a good healthcare manager, but there are some specific areas of expertise that are necessary to excel in the field, including the following:
- Communication skills – While managers in all industries must be able to communicate effectively with both subordinates and superiors, communication skills are absolutely essential in healthcare management. Not only will you frequently be creating reports and presentations to aid in the growth of your facility, but much of the information that you will encounter in the industry can be highly sensitive. So, you must be extremely tactful in both your oral, written, and nonverbal delivery.
- Technology skills – Although you do not have to be a computer programmer to excel as a healthcare manager, you must be very tech-savvy. Many medical facilities are run on high-powered software. You will frequently be logging into databases and required to send out reports to large mailing lists as part of your job, so the ability to navigate technology adroitly is paramount.
- General business skills – While the software mentioned above definitely helps, all top managers are good with numbers and statistics. You must be able to estimate and project to help you make spur-of-the-moment decisions quickly. Other useful business skills to have are organization, punctuality, and general mailing/office capabilities.
- Education with a growth mindset – In the competitive job landscape of 2020, even hot professions like healthcare management will not look at you without an accredited degree in the industry. Furthermore, you must show a willingness to learn and continue your education to stay on top of the rapidly changing healthcare landscape. Finally, any relevant experience can also help set you apart.
- Leadership – Even though healthcare can be high-stress and demanding, at the end of the day, your role as a healthcare facility manager is still one of leading people. As such, you must show empathy, compassion, and be willing to walk a mile in your team’s shoes. Try to get to know everyone in your building to show that you care.
How Long is School for Healthcare Management?
The world of higher education has been turned on its head in the era of online learning. And now you can get healthcare management certification online. The traditional two-year or four-year degrees do not really exist anymore. With that said, an undergraduate degree in healthcare management will be roughly 120 credit hours (120 hours would traditionally be a four-year degree, assuming 15 credit hours per academic semester).
While 120 hours will secure you a bachelor’s degree, as in many professions, a master’s degree is now preferred for most healthcare management positions, which is typically another 36 credit hours of graduate-level work on top of your bachelor’s degree.
Check out the 5 legit things you can do with a healthcare management degree in that article!
Healthcare management involves overseeing an entire medical facility or system and ensuring its smooth operation. It is an excellent way for people to work in the healthcare field without actually practicing medicine on patients. As a healthcare manager, some of your many responsibilities will include setting the building’s schedule, making sure the facility stays within its budget, and making sure your facility meets the needs of the larger community.
(If you don’t think healthcare management is the right career choice for you, don’t worry. We offer many other great articles about a variety of careers. You might start by checking out this one on NLP certification to see if that sparks you interest!)