Healthcare Consultant – A Day in the Life

Healthcare is getting more complex. Governmental regulations, high-tech solutions, and lean financial budgets mean that healthcare entities must be experts at everything. To gain that specialized expertise and targeted decision-making, they often turn to healthcare consultants: the hired guns of the healthcare industry.

Healthcare consultants are usually contracted for short-term projects. Increasingly, those projects are tech-related—such as implementing an EHR system or migrating data to the cloud—but their focus can run the gamut across any issue a business or healthcare facility could encounter. The work of healthcare consultants is, by its very nature, bespoke to the client that contracts them. And when the project’s over, the consultant moves on.

The market size, measured by revenue, of the healthcare consultants industry in the US was $8.1 billion in 2022, and it’s still on the rise. A broad shift towards value-based care, regulatory compliance, data-driven analytics, and cloud applications means that healthcare organizations will continue to need help implementing new solutions and processes. The job of a healthcare consultant isn’t easy: it starts early, goes late, and requires a borderline fanatical commitment to completing projects where the demands can change overnight.

In their work, healthcare consultants save their clients money and time while improving their efficiency—and that’s worth a lot. Top consulting firms like McKinsey and Deloitte can pay healthcare consultants a base salary of $140,000. Combined with signing and performance bonuses, one’s total compensation can easily exceed $200,000 per year.

Healthcare consulting is fast-paced, challenging, dynamic, and highly rewarding. To look at life’s details as a healthcare consultant, read on.

Work Environment of a Healthcare Consultant

The work environment of a consultant will change based on the client who retains their services and vary further based on the consultancy for which they work. McKinsey consultants, for example, will often spend Monday to Thursday at the client site, where they may have a desk, a cubicle, or an entire reserved room if part of a larger team. Fridays may be spent back at the consultancy’s home office.

It’s important to note that client sites are rarely in one’s hometown, and thus travel is a way of life for many healthcare consultants. The frequent use of teleconferences and virtual work means that a healthcare consultant is often expected to work from anywhere, at any time.

Clinical Team of a Healthcare Consultant

Healthcare consultants have to work within and amongst multiple teams and stakeholders. They have some level of engagement with their client’s general staff and a symbiotic relationship with their home office and engagement manager.

The relationship with the client coordination team is especially important—these teams aren’t just data resources to a healthcare consultant; they’re a partner that will help find the right solutions (usable ones) and implement those solutions. This networked job requires heavy collaboration and coordination across multiple departments.

Typical Clients of a Healthcare Consultant

Hospitals, pharmaceutical firms, and other healthcare providers are the three most common clients for healthcare consultants.

  • Hospitals are the most common client of a healthcare consultant. Here, healthcare consultants align the hospital with government regulations; research, purchase, implement, and maintain EHR systems; and coordinate strategic planning for mergers, acquisitions, and other economic shifts.
  • Pharmaceutical firms are the second most likely client of a healthcare consultant and the most profitable market segment. Here, healthcare consultants provide human resources, logistics, public relations, and strategic management expertise.
  • Other healthcare providers (e.g., physician offices, outpatient centers, diagnostic labs, and medical labs) are a healthcare consultant’s third most common client. Here, healthcare consultants help with financial management and operational efficiency, particularly around supply costs, purchase methods, and the implementation and maintenance of EHR systems.

But that’s not a complete list. Healthcare consultants can also work for government agencies, nonprofit organizations, medical device companies, and insurance providers.

Typical Daily Responsibilities of a Healthcare Consultant

While the typical daily responsibilities of a healthcare consultant will depend upon the client who has retained their services, their work can often be broken down into four distinct categories.

  • Strategic management: navigating new governmental regulations, developing internal governance procedures, or advising on overall strategic direction
  • Financial management: improving accounting procedures, managing capital investments, conducting price negotiations, or analyzing the claims process
  • Human resources: offering recruitment and retention strategies, training and developing employees, and designing compensation and benefit packages
  • IT strategy: implementing a new EHR system, integrating software-supported medical devices and IoT applications, migrating data to cloud servers

On a more granular level, typical daily responsibilities could include:

  • Conducting interviews for research
  • Analyzing data spreadsheets
  • Designing decision models
  • Updating PowerPoint decks
  • Meeting with client leadership
  • Coordinating solutions with the consultancy team

In each case, the objectives will be determined by the client organization. However, the means of achieving those objectives are largely up to the healthcare consultant and their team. Finding solutions to problems is why they’ve been hired, and delivering those solutions requires a strong, multidisciplinary skill set.

Required Skills and Knowledge of Healthcare Consultants

Healthcare consultants will need a strong understanding of both the business world and the healthcare industry. A bachelor’s degree is rarely enough. Healthcare consultants at top consultancies often have a master’s degree, either an MBA with a specialization in healthcare or an MHA. This will supply the general and specialized knowledge needed to tackle many client needs.

Healthcare consultants are self-starters and quick learners who require minimal supervision. They need critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and leadership skills. They need to be able to use a suite of different software systems and be able to provide decision modeling and big data analytics. Adeptness in management techniques such as LEAN and Six Sigma can greatly benefit healthcare consultants. This role requires continuing education on best practices, governmental regulations, and emerging trends. To stay at the top of their field, many healthcare consultants must be lifelong learners.

Certification for Healthcare Consultants

While it’s not a requirement to practice, many healthcare consultants seek professional certification to distinguish themselves and demonstrate a commitment to best practices and continuing education.

The National Society of Certified Healthcare Business Consultants (NSCHBC) offers the Certified Healthcare Business Consultant (CHBC) designation. In order to earn the credential, candidates will need to become members of the NSCHBC, and then pass a four-hour certification exam. The exam is designed for seasoned professionals, and the NSCHBC recommends candidates have several years of experience and several years of membership with the NSCHBC, before attempting it. Exam fees are $600.00. The CHBC designation must be renewed every two years by completing 30 continuing education hours.

While not specific to healthcare, the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) offers the more generalized Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation. Eligibility requirements include three years of management consulting experience, a four-year degree, five client evaluations, and a written summary of engagements.

Once deemed eligible, candidates must pass both a written and oral examination. Application fees are $200 for IMC members and $300 for non-members; annual fees are $150 per year for members and $200 for non-members. Every third year, CMC holders must recertify by demonstrating 30-plus continuing development points.

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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