Health care services, like any other business, need effective managers. Medical and health service managers, also known as health care executives or health care administrators, organize, supervise, and coordinate health care services. These managers are either specialists, supervising a clinical department, or generalists, overseeing an entire facility.
Health care financing and organization are rapidly changing. Future medical and health service managers must understand health care delivery systems, technology changes, increasingly complex regulations, work restructuring, and preventative care policies. They will be asked to improve facility efficiency and health service quality.
Large facilities generally employ several assistant administrators who assist the top administrator and direct daily activities. Assistant administrators coordinate clinical activities in the following areas: health information, medical records, therapy, surgery, and nursing. Top administrators at smaller facilities supervise daily operations. For example, nursing home administrators supervise employees, finances, patient admissions, and direct resident care at the same time.
Clinical managers have more specific responsibilities than do generalists because of their training and experience with a specific focus. For example, directors of physical therapy are usually accomplished physical therapists, and the majority of health information and medical record administrators earned health information or medical record administration bachelor's degrees. Clinical managers develop and execute policies, objectives, and procedures, supervise employees, write reports, develop budgets, and coordinate operations with other management.
The security and storage of patient records is the responsibility of health information managers. Federal regulations require patient records to be accessible electronically and properly secured. Because of these requirements, health information managers must understand how to use computer software, technology, and current government regulations. Furthermore, because patient information is utilized in quality management and medical research, health information managers must be certain that databases contain accurate information accessible only by authorized personnel.
Physicians and managers work closely with each other in clinics that combine medical practices. At smaller medical clinics, office managers handle business affairs and physicians make medical decisions; whereas, larger clinics generally hire a full-time administrator to develop business strategies and supervise business operations.
A clinic of 10-15 doctors may hire 1 administrator to supervise the staff, manage billings and collections, oversee the budget, and coordinate equipment use and patient flow. A larger clinic with 40-50 doctors may employee a chief administrator and numerous assistants each with different responsibilities.
Medical and health service managers working at managed care clinics perform similar duties as their colleagues in larger clinics but usually supervise larger staffs, coordinate community outreach programs, and organize preventative care programs for patients.
Work environment. Certain managers work in private offices while others work in the same vicinity as their staff. The majority of medical and health service managers work long days. Nursing care facilities and hospitals operate 24 hours a day. Administrators and managers can be called to the office at any time of the day to resolve problems, and they are often required to travel long distances to attend meetings or expect auxiliary facilities.
Training, Qualifications, and Advancement
Most medical or health care managers working as generalists hold a master's degree in healthcare management. Sometimes smaller clinics will hire candidates with bachelor's degrees in entry-level positions. Sometimes candidates with experience, regardless of education level, will be hired at a physician's office.
Education and training. Medical and health service managers must understand business management fundamentals. Most generalists hold a master's degree in business administration, public administration, public health, health sciences, long-term care administration, or health services administration. However, in some smaller clinics and departments that specialize in health information management, individuals with bachelor's degrees can be hired in entry-level positions. Some smaller clinics and doctors' offices will hire experienced candidates regardless of formal education.
Colleges, universities, public health schools, medical schools, and allied health schools, offer bachelor's, master's, and doctorial degrees in health administration. In 2007, A little more than 70 universities offered master's programs in health service administration.
Potential candidates to head clinical departments usually only need a bachelor's degree and experience early in their career, but individuals wanting to be promoted should earn a master's degree in health service administration. For example, nursing service administrators usually worked as supervisory registered nurses with master's degrees in health service administration prior to being promoted.
Individuals interested in becoming health information managers must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited program. In 2007, there were a little over 40 accredited bachelor's degree programs and only 3 recognized post graduate health information management programs.
Certain graduate schools seek students with bachelor's degrees in health administration or business, but many programs want students with a liberal arts or health background. Candidates with previous experience working in health care can also increase their employment opportunities. Since many applicants apply for these programs, applicants wanting to be admitted need above average grades. Graduate programs generally last 2 to 3 years, and some programs include a year of supervised administrative work and course study in health information systems, health economics, epidemiology, ethics, human resource administration, accounting, and hospital organization or management. Certain students enroll in programs that specialize in the management of mental health facilities, medical group facilities, nursing care facilities, or hospitals. However, other schools promote a generalist approach to health administration education.
Licensure. All states and the District of Columbia require nursing care facility administrators to hold a bachelor's degree, pass a required licensing test, and complete any state mandated training programs. Certain states require administrators working in assisted living facilities to be licensed.
Certification and other qualifications. Medical and health service managers supervise hundreds of employees. Managers need to be open-minded and have good analytical skills. Medical and health service managers must understand information systems and finance and be able to interpret data. Since managers coordinate and implement decisions affecting their organization, they must be effective leaders. Medical and health services managers spend a lot of time working one-on-one with others, so they must be tactful, diplomatic, flexible, and effective communicators.
Advancement. Medical and health service managers move up in their organization by accepting positions with more responsibility such as a chief executive officer, a department head, or an associate administrator. Managers with a lot of experience can become health care management professors or consultants.
Individuals wanting to be registered health information administrators with the American Health Information Management Association must earn a bachelors or master's degree from an accredited program and pass an exam.
Recent graduates with health service administration master's degrees, can begin their careers as supervisors or department managers. A starting manager's responsibilities depend on his or her experience and the clinic's size. Some hospitals and health facilities provide postgraduate students fellowships or residencies which eventually can become permanent jobs. Recent graduates take jobs in consulting firms, nursing care corporations, mental health hospitals, clinics, or large medical practices.
Recent graduates with health administration bachelor's degrees often begin their careers as assistant department heads or administrative assistants at big hospitals, or they can begin at small hospitals or nursing care centers as department heads or assistant administrators.
In 2012, there were nearly 262,000 medical and health services managers. About 37 percent of medical and health service managers were employed at hospitals and nearly 22 percent worked at nursing or residential care centers or doctors' offices. Those remaining worked for the federal government, outpatient care centers, elderly community care centers, insurance companies, or home health care services.
Demand for new medical and health service managers is expected to better than average. Candidates with good business management skills and experience working in health care should have plenty of opportunities.
Employment change. Employment demand for medical and health service managers is expected to increase 16 percent through 2016. This growth is more than the average job growth projections for other occupations. The demand for health care services will continue to grow, requiring health care managers to be competent leaders.
All health care managers will need to improve the quality of care at their respective facilities, at the same time eliminating wasteful spending because government leaders supervising Medicare and insurance companies will require strict budget accountability. Managers will also supervise new efforts to digitize and secure medical records. In the near future, new managers will be in demand to recruit and retain new workers, utilize new health care technology, make sure state and federal regulations are followed, and enact preventative care programs.
Through 2016, the majority of medical and health service managers will work at hospitals. New manager jobs at hospitals are expected to increase at a slower rate because of the growth of outpatient care sites and clinics. Because of the large scale of the health care industry, health care jobs will be abundant despite limited job growth.
Accelerated job growth will occur at home health care agencies and doctors' offices since the expanded use of technology will make services previously only available at hospitals accessible at these facilities. Demand for medical group practice managers will increase as medical group practices expand.
Health care management companies that offer management services to hospitals and physician recruiting, managed care contract negotiations, information systems management, and emergency departments will hire medical and health service managers.
Job prospects. Abundant jobs will exist for candidates with business management skills and previous work experience in health care related fields. Medical and health service manager candidates who have worked at large hospitals will enjoy an edge over the competition. Candidates for upper management positions will experience the fiercest competition because these jobs pay well and are considered prestigious.
In May of 2012, median annual salaries for medical and health service managers were $73,340. Salaries in the middle were between $57,240 and $94,780, while the bottom 10 percent eared under $45,050 and the top 10 percent earned over $127,830. In May of 2012, the median salaries for managers were:
- Home health care services - $66,720
- Nursing care facilities - $66,730
- Physician offices - $67,540
- Outpatient care centers - $67,920
- General medical and surgical hospitals - $78,660
Medical and health service managers' salaries depend on the size and type of facilities they work in, as well as the job responsibilities they assume. In 2012, the Medical Group Management Association concluded that median salaries for administrators in clinics with 6 or less doctors were $72,875. Administrators working in clinics with 7-25 doctors were $95,766, and administrators working in clinics with 26 or more doctors were $132,955.
In 2012, a survey conducted by the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management discovered that office manager salaries in the following specialties were as follows: internal medicine, $66,853; family practice, $60,040; pediatrics, $62,125; orthopedics, $67,317; gynecology, $77,621; obstetrics, $67,222; ophthalmology, $67,317; cardiology, $76,392; dermatology, $70,599; and gastroenterology, $70,474.