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Factors driving career growth in healthcare management

Dr T S Srinath Kumar
Wednesday, August 2, 2017, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Despite the fact that 21,500 dentists from 290 colleges, 1.2 lakh nurses from 2,400 nursing schools and 1,500 colleges, 30,000 auxiliary nurse and midwifes from 1,300 schools, and 70,542 pharmacists pass out from 1,211 schools/colleges, India is still grappling with the shortage of doctors, nurses and midwives which is presently half the norm of 24.5 healthcare professionals per 10,000 populations.

The irony is that whilst there is qualitative and quantitative shortage of clinicians, many remain unemployed lacking essential skills or end up taking mediocre jobs despite being sincere and intelligent primarily due to unavailability of a post graduate seat or very low awareness about opportunities available in promising alternative careers (like a post graduate in healthcare management).

The demand-supply mismatch may also be due to lack of proper education planning and forecasting by policy makers – BDS graduates are a classic example whereby they are in surplus so perhaps the numbers could be curtailed, interestingly BDS are the only other clinicians other than MBBS to prescribe allopathic medicines – they can be simply re-trained to service primary healthcare and improve healthcare outcomes significantly. Whereas very few other industries than healthcare industry match up to the exponential growth in healthcare it has seen and projected for the next 30 years. There are five main factors driving this growth and employment in healthcare including jobs created for clinicians and more so for healthcare management professionals.   

Aging population
This is the prime factor fueling demand for medical services as the large baby-boom population ages and people remain active later in life – therefore, managers are needed to organize and manage healthcare staffs and medical information in all areas of the industry.

Alternative financing
Recent comprehensive changes to the healthcare insurance landscape in India is evident of spiraling treatment costs and therefore consequently more people are opting in for health insurance products that are projected to significantly change the demand for healthcare. As a greater proportion of the population gains access to medical benefits, healthcare organizations may also see a shift in patient needs as well as an increase in demand. Therefore, the demand for healthcare managers is growing to manage reimbursements, and expenditures for increased financial and performance transparency as part of the move to outcomes-based payment models; more sophisticated risk-monitoring techniques; and coordination across agencies and regions. Organizations of all sizes will need to continue navigating and complying with a highly complex, changing set of global, regional, country, and industry-specific laws and directives also.

With all of this demand for healthcare comes growth and reorganization, services are required to optimize functioning of new services. Hospitals are diversifying and venturing into lateral services for e.g. managing patient in the community post discharge from hospitals noting that as medical services become more diverse and more businesses like, we will see an increased demand for non-clinical healthcare business managers.

So unlike, promoting a clinician to an administrative job which was rather traditional, they are looking for people with more of a business background because it’s an entirely different mindset requiring very different skill set that is unassuming. So professional managers who can do accounting, optimize operations, plan and budget etc. are in great demand.

Creation of for-profit biz
While most hospitals operate on a non-profit basis, hospitals only form 50% of the growing healthcare sector. There are rehab and wellness centres, home healthcare businesses, technology companies, and healthcare-related businesses that support the healthcare system. These are primarily for-profit businesses. For instance, doctors are breaking from the norm and setting up their own I.T. enabled ambulatory healthcare practices with the help of experienced healthcare managers.

Advancing technology
New technology will continue to change the way healthcare is provided and managed. Medical advances, record keeping, information systems and information sharing will all continue to change and become more complex. New technology will likely expand opportunities for companies to diversify their offerings into the healthcare sphere. Advances in medical technology and information systems may also create a need for technical healthcare managers who are able to plan, direct and integrate new technology solutions into existing organizations.

The current trend in employment in the health care industry predicts a growing need for qualified healthcare professionals in response to a rising demand for healthcare services. Very few areas of employment in the world are expanding as fast as careers in healthcare, and that growth is not anticipated to stop its growth in the foreseeable future.

Some of the fields that are experiencing the greatest amount of growth include: Healthcare Insurance; Health Informatics; Healthcare consultancy; Public Health; Care of the elderly/assisted living and palliative care and Hospital Management.

With growing diversity in the healthcare system, Healthcare managers are needed in many settings. These needs will continue to grow, as will the job opportunities for those pursuing careers as healthcare manager and executives.

Skill sets required for healthcare managers
Hard skills: The healthcare industry isn’t just about hospitals anymore. All kinds of new businesses are springing up to meet patient needs, including physical and occupational therapy practices, home healthcare services, nursing homes and even nurse practitioner businesses. Then there are the businesses that support new medical services such as medical supply companies, labs and technology companies, etc. All of these organizations need business and entrepreneurial talent who understand everything from personnel management and marketing to strategic planning, “there is a great demand for people who can do, people that can set up records manage large record systems, electronic medical records (EMRs) for keeping track of patient records.”

Soft skills: Those who gravitate toward careers in business often hone what are called “soft skills.” “Think of all of the things that go into the continuity of care. Quality healthcare consists of four elements: collaboration, coordination, communication and continuity of care. And those first three Cs require someone with people skills, someone who is able to connect stakeholders together. This is not a clinical position. This is a management position,”.

Soft skills such as communication, charisma, positive attitude, confidence and emotional intelligence help business administrators and managers build networks, connect with leadership across industries, negotiate better contracts, motivate personnel and hire effective teams.

As healthcare and healthcare-related business expands, it will also become increasingly complex with a greater need for technology solutions. Business and technology managers likely will be needed to oversee those new changes. Basically, looking for professionals who can connect businesses through technology like the home healthcare companies connecting with the electronics companies, and the IT companies.

(Author is faculty member, PGDM Healthcare Management Programme, IFIM B School)


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