When we think about healthcare we typically envision a hospital or patients being treated by caregivers. But first and foremost, healthcare is a business, and like all businesses, it requires skilled managers to keep things running smoothly.
The three top administrative areas in health care revolve around office management, health services and patient-based care, and information management—usually called health informatics.
These three areas are critical to the success of a hospital, doctor’s office or peripheral organizations that need one or all of these services—places like insurance companies, billing, staff benefits and payroll offices, and IT solutions firms that enforce patient security when they use online medical record software.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in one of these top healthcare administrative industries—or are just beginning your research to figure out which healthcare field to enter—read on to learn more about health care administration careers, education and curriculum, job duties and salary data.
The History of Healthcare Administration
Healthcare administration is a booming field that combines caring for people with business leadership. Charlene Boyd, Administrator of Providence Mount Saint Vincent Hospital in Seattle, describes the best health administration workers as people “who have passion for their work, vision for the future, and who understand the principles of leadership.”
The development of healthcare administration and management as a career field has followed the development of medical science and the growth of hospitals in the U.S. says Cynthia Carter Haddock in her book, Careers in Healthcare Management: How to Find Your Path and Follow It.
The growth of the hospital in the U.S. grew from 170 to 7,000 between 1875 and 1925, largely due to the discovery of anesthesia, antibiotics and antisepsis, and progress in the field of surgery. Prior to this, patients were mostly treated in their homes by a doctor.
Early hospital administrators were typically nurses who took over management roles, but had little training in the actual job. As need grew, the very first hospital administration education program in health economics was created for nurses at Columbia Teachers College in New York in 1900, while the first degree granted in hospital administration was at Marquette University in Wisconsin.
In 1933 the American College of Hospital Administrators was formed and became the first professional association (it is now called the American College of Healthcare Executives.).
Programs have brown and broadened over the years, but still remain largely defined by what is happening in the medical and technology worlds around them. Hospitals have become large, complex institutions and technology advances at a rapid rate. The government has taken on an increasingly larger role in how, when and why healthcare is delivered to the public.
Hospital administrators must then take on increasingly larger roles as well. They must be educated in human resources, finance, accounting, data collection and marketing as well as their primary role: the care of people. They must also be advocates and arbitrators and mediators between organizations that impact their smooth operation, patient rights, and staff rights. They must also make sure the privacy and security of their systems are strictly enforced and immediately updated and upgraded.
In other words, healthcare administration is a huge job that carries great risk and reward. But the more education people interested in the field undertake, the more they’ll be ready for the known—and unknown—challenges that are sure to come.
Once you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree from an accredited school you’ll be ready to enter the field—or go on to earn an advanced degree such as a master’s in healthcare administration. Your education can prepare you for a career in any of these administrative areas:
- Health Unit Coordinator
- Health Information Management
- Health Services Administration
- Medical Office Management
- Health Informatics
It’s important to verify that your school is accredited, either through regional agency accreditation or through approval from the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education or the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education. These agencies ensure your program meets rigorous standards and will ensure that all your credits transfer when you decide to attend a different school or pursue your postgraduate degree. Read more about health administration degrees.
What You’ll Study
As healthcare administration roles become more popular, you’ll want to make sure you have the right educational background.
Depending upon your area of choice, here are some of the types of classes you can expect to take:
Health Information Management and Informatics
You can earn your bachelor’s and master’s in Health Informatics and Information Management from either a classroom program or through an online degree program. Your curriculum will include:
- Healthcare Vocabularies
- Healthcare Systems and Health Data Systems
- Healthcare Coding
- Revenue Management
- Healthcare Computer Systems and Electronic Health Records
- Organizational Theory
- Quality Assurance
- Law, Policy and Ethics
- Quantitative Methods
- Enterprise Systems
Master’s-level classes include Data Analysis, Information Governance, Health Information Systems and Organizational and Patient Information Privacy and Security. You’ll be required to complete a Capstone Project as well.
Healthcare Office Management
You can enter the field with a two-year associate’s degree, but may be required to earn your bachelor’s as you progress along your career path to larger and more complex institutions, such as hospitals or care facility. In your program you’ll learn such topics as these:
- Electronic Health Records and client data management
- Insurance billing and reimbursement
- Business principles and practices, including ethics and laws
- Principles of management and human resources
- Math, accounting and finance
- Critical thinking and application
Health Services Administration
You’ll need to earn your bachelor’s degree to get started in health services administration and management, and your coursework will include the following:
- Health Services Systems
- Leadership and Management for Healthcare Professionals
- Ethics and Conflict Resolution
- Cultural Competency
- Quality Assurance and Evidence-Based Healthcare Service
- IT for Healthcare
- Financial Management
- Organizational behavior and Human Resources
- Global healthcare Systems and Policy
- Healthcare Quality Management
Healthcare administrators, also called medical and health services managers or health care executives, have a big job. Learn what skills and traits you’ll need to work in this growing field.
- Focused on results
- A “people person”
You should have…
- Strong leadership skills
- Excellent communication skills
- Solid interpersonal relationship abilities
- Analytical skills
- An ability to set and reach goals
- High ethical standards
- Strong organizational skills
The more education you get, the better your salary may be when it comes to healthcare administration. Of course your job duties will increase along with responsibility so you’ll definitely earn your pay. Here are some of the median annual salaries you may expect when you enter the health care administration field:
Medical and Health Services Managers: Because the increased demand for healthcare professionals in general also informs the administration field, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says manager careers should grow 17 percent through 2026, which is much faster than average. The median annual salary for healthcare administration managers is $96,540.
Healthcare Information and Informatics Managers: According to the BLS these workers can expect a 15 percent growth in the field through 2024, which is much faster than average for all careers. Those entering the field can expect to earn a median annual salary of around $62,840.
First, pick the area you’re interested in. As you can see, healthcare administration is a broad field with several unique areas that are distinguishable from the others. For example, if you love working with computers and technology rather than people, informatics and information technology would be a likely choice.
Next, start researching the schools that fit your needs. If you have to keep working while you attend classes, an online program might be best. No matter what program you choose, make sure it’s earned the seal of approval from the accrediting agencies that govern healthcare administration. If you’re ready to begin, we can help you start your research today.
Healthcare Administration Degree and Career Guide
Healthcare Administration Education
- Healthcare Admin Home
- Accreditation for Healthcare Administration Degree Programs
- Healthcare Education and Reform
- Healthcare Management Internships
Healthcare Administration Careers
- Healthcare Administrator Careers
- Health Unit Coordinator Careers
- Health Information Management Careers
- Health Information Technician Careers
- Health Services Administrator Careers
- Long Term Care Management
- Medical Office Management Careers
- Compare Health Services Management Jobs
- Compare Health Information Management Jobs
- Health Management vs. Health Informatics
- Healthcare Administration Glossary
- Healthcare Administration Salaries
- Interview with a Nursing Home Healthcare Administrator
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