Building a 21st-Century Career in Health Care
By Samuel Ogie
Health care is more complex than ever before and managing those complexities for the best possible outcomes for both patients and caregivers is no easy undertaking. Service providers have to navigate new policy reforms and changing industry economics while still ensuring high-quality care. Health care organizations will need to develop new delivery models and management structures to succeed, especially as they face the shift from volume- to value-based purchasing. To achieve the goal of optimal health care at the lowest cost, institutions will also need to make significant investments in clinical and financial IT systems, which produce tremendous amounts of data – all of which need to be analyzed using an evidence-based approach to ensure the delivery of quality, cost-effective care.
Health care institutions will need to learn how to leverage big data to meet the challenges they face in the new and more competitive environment. Health care IT systems will generate oceans of clinical and financial data, but what does it mean and how does a leader use it all to make wise decisions? Integrating disparate data sources and producing actionable information will be one of the keys to success in the value-based health care world. Critical questions that will require big data answers include:
How can we tailor care effectively under population health management? What is the right care, when should it be delivered, and what is the right delivery setting?
How much should a pathway of care cost?
What specific actions or attributes drive consumer satisfaction?
Which providers perform better than others and how do we even know what “good” performance is?
What performance metrics should we use?
This data glut will only grow as health care institutions expand through horizontal and vertical integration. Hospitals are acquiring their way into different markets by adding services like urgent care, home health and hospice care. Large ambulatory surgery centers will expand into anesthesia, physician practice management, outsourced hospital services, pharmacy, laboratory and other ancillary services.Economic studies have highlighted the many difficulties associated with cost-reducing synergies so health care leaders will need to learn how to efficiently integrate evidenced-based clinical practice and new work flow processes to yield lower costs and better outcomes.
Creating organizational structures and incentive systems that align activity across the care continuum is difficult and requires both knowledge of how to manage people and an understanding of the business and economics that drive each part of the continuum of care.
These new demands on health care professionals are only just beginning. As the complexity of health care continues to increase, managerial education will become a critical factor in the health care system of the future. To make sure you and your staff are trained to meet these challenges, consider the following points when evaluating educational opportunities for future health care leadership:
Does the education not only help the student understand the current landscape and likely evolution, but also impart a flexible and durable knowledge base that will be useful regardless of how the industry evolves? Programs that focus on existing organizations without developing economic, financial, and strategic frameworks for evaluating and predicting change will not serve institutions well.
Does the education reflect an understanding of the intricacies of the health care industry? Pervasive regulation and the fragmented structure of the industry make health care distinct. Frameworks and analyses developed for other industries are not as useful as those which are tailored for health care.
How long before the institution will see a return on its investment and how significant is the return? The industry is evolving too quickly to wait while a manager invests up to three years (or more) working their way through a traditional master’s program, yet it is difficult to develop the necessary skills and new ways of thinking in short, seminar-style programs. The program should be rigorous and focused.
Like any good business, the health care sector needs quality managers to maintain a smoothly running organization. Each institution needs to track and analyze trends in an ever-changing industry and to keep the business on the cutting edge. In addition, health care jobs are expected to increase faster than the population as the older population grows and improved technology advances life expectancies.
The world of health care is changing. Continuing education provides the skills that are critical in this dynamic field. Every day new regulations and emerging delivery options provide challenges and opportunities for professionals across the spectrum of this diverse and dynamic industry. For that reason, medical and health service leaders must be prepared to do more than just stay current with new information. They need to be able to predict and prepare for the innovations that will have a dramatic impact on the business of health care far into the future.
For example,our Master of Science degree (MS) in Health Care Management (HCM) at the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School is a perfect fit for individuals seeking an education that will prepare them for their entire career. Our program begins with understanding the underlying economics that drive the industry’s evolution. This knowledge will allow MS HCM graduates to evaluate their organizations and optimize care delivery, while preparing for the next round of fundamental change.
A typical class will include a broad range of experienced clinicians, including physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals, as well as administrators, IT professionals, and researchers. A diverse student body enriches classroom discussion and prepares students to lead the multi-disciplinary teams needed to solve the complex challenges facing their organizations. Our instructors have decades of experience consulting in the health care industry and teaching health care professionals. They are recognized globally as leaders in organizational economics, finance, accounting, strategy, and operations.
There are many different types of careers that can be pursued with a health care management degree. Every health care operation needs someone in a management position who understands the market and can supervise other employees effectively. Students graduate to become general health care managers, or may decide to specialize in managing specific types of health care organizations, such as hospitals, senior care facilities, physician's offices, or community health centers. Other graduates are working in health care consulting or education.
One thing is clear. Our health care system needs talented, highly educated professionals who understand how to apply business and economics to maintain and improve the performance of the health care sector. Innovative educational programs which supply these professionals will greatly benefit patients and caregivers in the years to come.
About the Author: Samuel Ogie leads the M.S. in Health Care Management as the director of Health Sciences Programs at Simon Business School at the University of Rochester.