What Does a Hospital Administrator Do?

Hospital administrators oversee the organizational side of health services. Either working in a team or independently, they make sure a medical facility is employing effective and efficient practices that deliver the best care possible. What a doctor is to a patient, a hospital administrator is to a medical facility. And keeping a large organization healthy requires a robust and multidimensional skillset.

On a concrete level, a bachelor’s degree in a related field is the bare minimum of education required to be a hospital administrator. However, many hospital administrators have master’s degrees (often MHAs or MBAs) that provide both the advanced technical knowledge and the leadership skills necessary to run a large, multi-faceted, health organization. Hospital administrators need to be competent in analysis, communication, and maintaining collaborative relationships. And those competencies have to be grounded in a strong technical understanding and a detail-oriented approach that can effectively handle the industry’s nuances.

In effect, hospital administrators save lives, but they do so in complex and varied ways. Read on to learn more about what this job entails, how it can look, and where it occurs.

Hospital Administrator Job Overview

Healthcare is a complex and rapidly changing industry, and its administration can be complicated with all of the industry’s moving parts. An administrator will need to coordinate with the people their facility employs, as well as the people it serves. Policy compliance, HR, finances, work processes, departmental strategy, and even data management are just some of the operations a hospital administrator oversees.

The responsibilities of a healthcare administrator reach beyond the walls of the facility, too. Administrators may foster partnerships with the wider population and work with both the public and private sector on matters of policy, research, and cooperation. They may also collaborate with other administrators to share best practices and data to better serve patients, wherever they are.

Hospital Administrator Specializations

Hospital administrators are often expected to do it all, but there’s also the opportunity to specialize in an area that requires a more singular focus. Here are three popular specializations for hospital administrators:

  • Health Informatics. It’s the age of Big Data, and healthcare has become heavily digitized. With the use of electronic medical records well established, a healthcare facility is now exposed to all the responsibilities that go with it—properly storing, securing, and utilizing patient and provider information. Informatics specialists will have a strong understanding of IT and data analytics, as well as the communication and business skills necessary to translate them into realized outcomes in medical and organizational contexts.
  • Patient Advocacy. The people who need the most help are often the ones without a voice. Hospital administrators may specialize in advocacy, either for individual patients within a facility or for populations and communities at large. As a patient advocate, a hospital administrator will be well-versed in payment options, insurance matters, and government regulation.
  • Public Policy. Politicians aren’t necessarily healthcare experts, but hospital administrators with training in healthcare policy are. While most hospital administrators are responsible for maintaining compliance to regulations within their facility, policy-oriented hospital administrators can lobby to influence governmental policy. By educating communities, organizations, and lawmakers, they can use their subject matter expertise and hands-on experience to change the landscape of healthcare from the top down. In addition to having an in-depth understanding of public policy, many hospital administrators hold law degrees.

Common Employers of Hospital Administrators

Hospital administrators do not necessarily work in hospitals. They can also work in private practice, clinical departments, managed care facilities, and public health agencies. Larger organizations often employ more than one hospital administrator. However, in a sense, all hospital administrators have the same employer: the patient. No matter the setting, title, or specialization, a hospital administrator’s main responsibility is the efficient and compassionate optimization of health services.

Day-to-Day Tasks of Hospital Administrators

A hospital administrator’s day to day tasks will vary based on setting and specialization, but some examples include:

  • Designing budgets and establishing rates for health services
  • Managing the hiring, training, and evaluation of human resources
  • Procuring funding through fundraising and community partnerships
  • Serving as liaison between the facility staff, governance, and patients
  • Overseeing the collection, securitization, and utilization of both patient and facility data
  • Architecting short, medium, and long term organizational strategy
  • Ensuring compliance with governmental policies and insurance reimbursement
  • Developing new policies and procedures to better serve the patient population
  • Streamlining both financial and operational practices

Work Environments of Hospital Administrators

For most hospital administrators, the basic work environment is an office at a medical facility, which can be seen as the headquarters for wider operations, but this isn’t a profession buried in numbers and theory. It’s a profession based around people. And while keen leadership and organizational skills are necessary for any hospital administrator, the human element is critical.

Face-to-face interaction combined with on-the-ground experience is usually a prerequisite for effective coordination between a facility’s many moving parts. An administrator at a hospital might walk the halls, talking to doctors and patients and getting a sense of what’s happening at the other end of administrative decisions. In the role of policy advisor or advocate, one may pound the pavement—drumming up funding and community support, attending and presenting at conferences and symposiums, or meeting with other administrators to find opportunities for collaboration.

Regardless of the work environment, the lights will be metaphorically kept on long through the night, as healthcare is a round-the-clock business. Hospital administrators may work long and odd hours, way beyond a traditional “work week”, and at times when others are off such as nights, weekends, and holidays. Even when they’re not working, hospital administrators are often on call, but the reward for this rigorous schedule is making a difference in the lives of others by taking care of the most vulnerable among us.