Health Services Manager – A Day in the Life

A health services manager oversees one or more aspects of the logistical operations at a medical facility. While physicians and other medical staff focus on the treatment of patients, health services managers take care of everything else, ensuring that a facility runs smoothly and efficiently. That’s no small task: American medical facilities are businesses—and highly regulated ones at that—where the stakes aren’t only profit and loss, but occasionally life and death.

Healthcare is America’s biggest employer, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. As the Baby Boomer generation ages into retirement, the need for medical services is set to increase, and so is the need for health services managers. As healthcare becomes more tech-oriented and business-driven, medical facilities will need to retain larger numbers of skilled managers to operate at peak efficiency. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the demand for health services managers to increase by 20 percent between 2016 and 2026—a rate of growth that’s nearly triple the national average for all professions.

Just as there’s more than one type of doctor, there’s more than one type of health services manager. But even though there’s no singular routine for a health services manager, some broad themes do apply across the industry.

If you’re interested in learning more about one of America’s fastest-growing professions, read on to get a glimpse into a day in the life of a health services manager.

Work Environment of Health Managers

Health services managers work in medical facilities, though the particular type of medical facility can vary. Over a third of health services managers work in hospitals, while others work in physician clinics, outpatient care centers, and nursing care facilities. The particular type of facility that a health services manager works at will have an impact on their daily responsibilities and clinical teams. In many cases, a health services manager will call an office home base, but this is a job that, at its highest level, demands interaction between all of a facility’s different departments and personnel.

Clinical Team

Health services management is often a people-facing role, even when implementing technical solutions. Whether managing a single department or an entire facility, a health services manager will need to collaborate with a clinical team. When overseeing a whole facility, a key part of a health services manager’s role is to facilitate smooth communication between all the different dimensions of a healthcare facility, and health services managers may work closely with physicians, surgeons, nurses, medical technicians, laboratory staff, patients, and insurance agents. And even if they’re overseeing a single department (such as finance, IT, or care coordination), a health services manager often needs to interface with different sectors of the medical facility in order to achieve their goal.

Typical Daily Responsibilities

A health services manager has a broad mandate of improving the quality and efficiency of a healthcare facility’s service delivery. The ways in which they achieve this can take many forms, and it depends largely on the particular facility or department one is managing. A nursing home facility will require special attention to issues related to aging, while a private practice may need a more personalized touch. Even across the same type of medical facility, the work of a health services manager can vary: one facility might need help integrating a new IT system and storing patient records, while another might struggle with meeting budgetary and regulatory requirements.

In general, the typical daily responsibilities of a health services manager may include:

  • Creating work schedules and shift maps
  • Balancing the overall finances of a healthcare facility
  • Facilitating collaboration between separate departments
  • Hiring, training, and supervising a facility’s staff members
  • Researching new data management strategies
  • Ensuring a facility’s compliance with laws and regulations
  • Developing overarching strategic goals and objectives for the facility
  • Representing the medical facility on governing boards

Inside of health services management, it’s also possible to specialize in a particular function:

  • Care coordination
  • Finance and budget
  • Health information
  • Legal and policy compliance
  • Insurance
  • Personnel

No single typical day exists for all health services managers. Each facility and department has its own needs and resources to take into consideration. In the same way that a physician must assess each patient individually, so must a health services manager evaluate a medical facility. And, especially when they’re tasked with running an entire medical facility, it’s up to the health services manager to come up with both a diagnosis and prescription and then carry out this metaphorical treatment to completion.

Required Skills & Knowledge

Health services managers will need, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as public health, healthcare administration, or health information management. But it’s becoming increasingly common for employers to seek out candidates who have graduate-level education. A master of business administration (MBA) or a master of healthcare administration (MHA) can supply both the leadership skills and the technical knowledge necessary to take on executive-level positions at healthcare facilities. Furthermore, graduate-level education provides the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of expertise, such as long-term care administration, finance, or health information management.

While education is an important requirement for health services managers, it’s the soft skills that can truly make all the difference. Managing a healthcare facility requires robust business knowledge and a deep understanding of all the aspects of healthcare service delivery. Detail-orientation is key to managing supply chain logistics and employee scheduling. Analytical skills are required to interpret new regulations and budgetary limitations, while technical skills are necessary to stay current with innovations in IT, electronic health records (EHRs), and securing patient data. Finally, a mix of leadership, interpersonal, and communication skills are integral in implementing the changes across a barrage of disaggregated departments.

Professional Resources for Health Services Managers

While nursing homes and long-term care facilities do require their management to have certification and licensure, the majority of health services managers do not need additional certification in order to practice. But many health services managers do elect to join a professional organization in their specific area of focus. These professional organizations act as congregation points for industry professionals, and they can offer opportunities for networking, conferences, job postings, academic publications, and continuing education.

Professional organizations for health services managers include:

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog is a writer and researcher from Southern California. Since 2018, he’s written extensively about emerging issues in healthcare administration and public health, with a particular focus on progressive policies that empower communities and reduce health disparities. His work centers around detailed interviews with researchers, professors, and practitioners, as well as with subject matter experts from professional associations such as the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) and the American College of Health Care Executives (ACHCA).

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