Health Care Management

Health care is the largest industry in the United States, employing more than 18 million people and growing rapidly, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Health care workers diagnose, treat, and administer care to patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The health care system is comprised of a wide variety of medical facilities that are located throughout the country. Hospitals provide comprehensive medical care to patients. Services include emergency care, diagnostic medicine, surgery, and general care. Nursing and residential facilities provide medical services to people who need continuous care, but do not need to be hospitalized.

Offices of physicians and other health care professionals consist of small groups of medical professionals who work together to reduce practice costs. These physicians see patients with problems ranging from the flu to serious illnesses, such as cancer or heart disease. Group medical practices are similar, but they often have hundreds, and even thousands, of doctors on staff. Rehabilitation centers help people recover from stroke, injuries, or other medical conditions. Diagnostic imaging centers provide imaging services such as radiography and sonography. Urgent-care facilities provide care on an unscheduled, walk-in basis to people with illnesses or injuries that are not serious enough to cause them to go to a hospital emergency room. Home health care services provide medical and nursing care to patients in their homes. Additionally, some medical professionals work at health care consulting firms, providing their expertise to the various industry sectors.

It takes skilled managers to keep these facilities and the health care system running effectively to serve the needs of patients. Health care managers direct the operation of hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care organizations. They are responsible for facilities, services, programs, staff, budgets, and relations with other organizations.

More than 332,000 health care managers are employed in hospitals; group medical practices; offices of physicians, dentists, and other health practitioners; and centers for urgent care, rehabilitation, and diagnostic imaging. Opportunities are also plentiful in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, home health care agencies, adult day care programs, life care communities, and other residential facilities. Health care facilities are owned by state and federal governments or religious and other nonprofit organizations. Many are for-profit companies such as HCA Holdings, Community Health Systems, Tenet Healthcare, DaVita, Universal Health Services, LifePoint Health, Kindred Healthcare, Genesis Healthcare, Brookdale Senior Living, Select Medical Holdings, Encompass Health Corporation, Steward Health Care, Acadia Healthcare, and VCA—all of which made the Fortune 500 in 2017. Some health care managers work for health care consulting firms or own their own consulting businesses. The military and the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Health & Human Services, as well as state and local agencies, also offer careers in this field.

Health care is big business. Total U.S. health care expenditures reached $3.3 trillion in 2016, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Industry expenditures broke down as follows: hospital care ($1.1 trillion), physician and clinical services ($664.9 billion), prescription drugs ($328.6 billion), nursing care facilities and continuing care retirement communities ($162.7 billion), dental services ($124.4 billion), and home health care services ($92.4 billion). These large expenditures translate into excellent job opportunities for health care managers, who, in addition to managing employees and facilities, are needed to help manage budgets and reduce expenditures while still providing quality health care services to patients.

Jobs for those in health care management range from chief executive officers, who lead entire facilities, to department heads, who are responsible for a single department at a hospital or other health care facility. Such departments include nursing administration, finance, government relations, marketing and public affairs, patient care services, and others. Jobs in health care management exist at many levels and provide opportunities for people with a wide range of skills and experience. Medical knowledge is not always required, and many of the jobs typical of any large company or organization exist in the industry, with the bonus that they are likely to be in demand in the future as the need for health care grows.

Health care manager typically ranks high in “best job” lists due to its combination of good pay, relatively low stress levels, challenging work, advancement possibilities, strong employment demand, and other criteria. 

In 2017, CNNMoney/PayScale ranked the career of hospital administrator as the 8th-best job in the United States because it offered “big growth, great pay, and satisfying work.” The career received the following letter grades: personal satisfaction: A; benefit to society: A; opportunity to telecommute: B; and low stress: C.

Eighty-five percent of health care executives surveyed by the recruiting firm B.E. Smith in 2017 reported that they were satisfied with their careers.

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