Five Emerging Careers in Healthcare Administration

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Healthcare is a rapidly changing industry. Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, emerging issues in big data, the complexities of healthcare regulations, and new integrations between healthcare and business are all transforming the way care is delivered. But doctors and providers are not the ones implementing these innovations; healthcare administrators are.

Healthcare administration is one of the fastest growing career sectors in the U.S. Innovations in healthcare do not simply upgrade the old; they reinvent the new. As a result, there is a wealth of new job titles and career opportunities emerging in healthcare administration. While hospital administrators are, in general, still in high demand, there is also a renewed call for specialists due to an increasingly complex and fragmented landscape. What used to be a single career has now evolved into an umbrella term for a broader field.

Read on to get a look at the top five emerging careers in healthcare administration.

Healthcare Data Scientist

With applications in disease detection, drug discovery, and care delivery, healthcare is poised to be one of the largest beneficiaries of the AI revolution. It is already being used to optimize facility workflow, image analysis, and clinical diagnostics. But that type of artificial intelligence requires some very keen data science to develop useful learning algorithms. With billions of investment dollars flowing in, healthcare data scientists are already in high demand.

Healthcare data scientists use mathematics, programming, and visualization to mine raw data for trends, and then find applications for those trends, putting them to work in learning algorithms. Their roles are often client-facing, meaning that they must communicate with their customer on a consistent basis to define the pertinent questions they face, so as to best design an applicable solution.

On a technical level, data scientists need to be comfortable with extracting raw data and manipulating it into actionable insights, often through programming languages, such as Python or R. Analytical skills based in machine learning require a working knowledge of statistics, logistic regression, and neural networks.

Typical responsibilities for healthcare data scientists include:

  • Extracting data from primary sources
  • Utilizing data visualization software to deduce trends
  • Communicating with colleagues and customers to determine pertinent issues
  • Writing and testing software on different platforms
  • Applying statistical models and machine learning to draw scientific conclusions
  • Comparing and synthesizing multiple data sets to reach a peak accuracy

According to Indeed, the average salary for healthcare data scientists is just under $128,000 a year. The educational requirements for this position can be steep though they do vary from employer to employer. While some positions may require only a bachelor’s degree, a master’s or doctorate is generally preferred, and specialized programs in health data science have already sprouted up, like the one at Harvard University. Additionally, prospective and current healthcare data scientists can use the Healthcare Data and Analytics Association (HDAA) as a resource for collaboration and professional development.

Healthcare Information Administrator

Healthcare is going digital, and institutions are facing a data tsunami. According to research firm IDC, the amount of healthcare data in 2013 was 153 exabytes and will grow to 2,314 exabytes by 2020. If all that data were to be stored on tablet computers and stacked vertically, it would be nearly 82,000 miles tall and reach over a third of the way to the moon. While data scientists sift through that data and work it into actionable insights, healthcare information administrators secure, manage, and optimize the systems that collect and hold that data.

Healthcare information administrators can have several job titles, and their primary responsibilities vary based upon the particular needs of the facility for which they work. Some administrators may specialize in the implementation of new IT and data collection infrastructures, while others may focus on the management and operation of them. Further sub-specialties exist within that split as well, such as compliance, education, and the revenue cycle.

Some key responsibilities of healthcare information administrators include:

  • Analyzing health records for accuracy
  • Ensuring compliance with HIPAA regulations
  • Securing sensitive health data against privacy breaches
  • Creating a standard language for data interoperability
  • Improving data literacy among a medical facility’s staff and patients

The average salary for healthcare information administrators, according to Indeed, is just under $70,000 a year, based on more than 5,200 survey respondents. A bachelor’s degree, preferably in health information management, is the bare educational minimum for many employers, although there is a strong trend pushing for master’s-level education, such as a master of healthcare administration (MHA) with a focus in informatics.

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is the go-to professional resource for health information administrators, and their certifications are well recognized in the industry, which can lead to a significant boost in salary.

Healthcare Policy Specialist

Even as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) saw a sizeable increase in the number of newly insured Americans, a debate has persisted over who has been helped and how. The ambition of this massive healthcare legislation has come with an equally large dose of complexity—some 10,000 pages of policy.

The introduction of the American Healthcare Act, which repeals and replaces parts of the ACA, has only increased the complexity and confusion. While this position is by no means a new one, it has taken on a new focus with renewed importance in the national landscape.

Healthcare policy specialists can work for government organizations, charities, think tanks, insurance companies, medical facilities, and elsewhere in the private sector. Many subfields exist in the profession, with specializations in Medicaid, lobbying, education, or community outreach. Healthcare policy specialists need a solid understanding of legislation as it applies to their area of specialty, along with sound research, analysis, and communication skills.

Typical responsibilities of a healthcare policy specialist include:

  • Researching healthcare policy updates
  • Analyzing the impacts of new legislation on companies and communities
  • Advocating for policy adjustment at the state or federal level
  • Developing strategies for legislation compliance
  • Conducting site visits to assess the operations of a healthcare facility
  • Collaborating with healthcare administrators to implement policy changes

According to employment data aggregator PayScale, health policy analysts earn an average of $60,000 a year. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for some entry-level positions, but graduate-level education is increasingly preferred. A specialized MHA, a master of public health (MPH), or even a law degree may be required for certain positions.

The American Public Health Association (APHA) houses a Center for Public Health Policy, where healthcare policy specialists can network, share resources, and collectively advocate for policy changes and implementation that better serve the wider population’s collective health.

Onsite Clinic Administrator

A new trend in the workplace is the implementation of clinics at an employee’s place of work. These onsite clinics are the result of increasing concern for employee health. In 2017, one-third of employers with more than 5,000 employees offered general medicine worksite clinics, an increase of almost 10 percent from 2012.

Customized to meet the needs of a specific population, onsite clinics can range in their scope of service, including acute care, primary care, general wellness services, and everything in between. The need for healthcare administrators is doubly important in an onsite clinic because they are responsible for the seamless implementation of a medical facility within the walls of a non-medical environment.

Onsite clinic administrators operate in much the same way that offsite clinic administrators do, working to ensure the day-to-day operations of a healthcare facility. However, onsite administrators are also working with a specific population of working-age adults and need to coordinate their care to match the needs of a particular parent corporation. Integrating health and wellness within the culture of the workplace is a top priority, and close coordination with company executives is a critical function of onsite clinic administrators.

Typical responsibilities for onsite clinic administrators include:

  • Instituting a culture of health and wellness in the workplace
  • Designing and maintaining the clinic’s budget
  • Staffing and scheduling clinical staff
  • Coordinating with company directors to procure and distribute clinical resources
  • Squaring a clinic’s offerings with the parent company’s health plans
  • Optimizing wellness services for employees

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary or medical and health services managers is $98,350 per year. The bare minimum for entry-level positions is a bachelor’s degree in a related field, but the trend for healthcare administrators is pushing for master’s level education either through an MHA or a master of business administration (MBA) with a healthcare focus.

Professional resources include the National Association of Worksite Health Centers (NAWHC), the Healthcare Administrators Association (HCAA) and the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM). The later offers certifications in compliance and revenue cycle specialties. Also, the American Hospital Association (AHA) also offers a healthcare facility management certification.

Healthcare Consultant

Healthcare is one of the fastest changing industries in the world, but it is also a disaggregated one, where a state-of-the-art hospital and a paper-based medical clinic may exist on the same street.

While healthcare administration is one of the more in-demand careers of the moment, many facilities are still looking to bring someone in part-time to help them manage the transition from the 20th to 21st century. For this reason, healthcare consultancy is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Healthcare consultants shepherd medical facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance companies through transitions and updates to their practices. While their exact roles and responsibilities vary based on their clients, it is largely up to a consultant to determine what a client needs and come up with solutions. A consultant may specialize in a specific subcategory, such as IT or finance, but they will almost certainly work with a variety of clients throughout their career.

Some typical responsibilities for a healthcare consultant may include:

  • Developing a needs assessment with the client
  • Streamlining a client’s management structure and staffing
  • Upgrading a client’s IT and data-sharing capabilities
  • Introducing cost-effective and efficient new business models
  • Adapting industry-wide best practices in isolated settings
  • Educating staff and executives during transition periods

According to PayScale, healthcare consultants earn more than $75,000 a year. However, a report by George Washington University found that the average base salary surpassed $130,000 a year. There are many educational pathways to becoming a healthcare consultant, but most will have graduate-level education in the form of an MBA with a healthcare focus, MHA, or MPH.

Work experience in related fields is at a premium for healthcare consultants, who are often primarily managing other managers. Specialized certifications might be required for technology clients, such as Epic, a healthcare software service. The National Society of Certified Healthcare Business Consultants (NSCHBC) is a professional organization that allows for networking, collaboration, and continuing education amongst healthcare consultants. It also offers pathways to professional certification.

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