What Is Health Administration?

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A health care administrator discusses organizational changes with a staff member.

As the number of hospitals, urgent care clinics, and freestanding emergency rooms continues to grow, more health administrators are needed to direct the departments in those organizations. Health administration involves the ongoing management of health care facilities, staff, and projects. Health care administrators supervise the activities of various departments, from finance and insurance, to patient care and a range of facility operations.

Nurses and physicians, as well as those who want to enter the profession without a medical degree, can pursue a focused degree option. An excellent choice is to attain an online Master of Health Administration degree, which can lead to key positions in hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities. This degree offers professionals the credentials and the knowledge to serve as trusted resources to both health care facility employees and C-level executives. Read on to learn more about what health administration is.

Keeping Health Care Facilities Running Efficiently

Health care administrators provide health care staff with the technological, financial, and organizational infrastructure to perform their duties and maximize positive patient outcomes. Below is a list of common administrative functions, demonstrating what health administration is and how it impacts the medical field.

Technology in Health Administration

Health administrators evaluate and implement technological systems that capture patient health data and keep medical records private. Collecting data on patients through new diagnostic technologies helps physicians and nurses make informed clinical care decisions. Health administrators must keep in mind that patient health records are protected by state and federal regulations. As such, their organizations’ electronic health record (EHR) systems are subject to audits to maintain compliance. Health administrators should ensure their analysts keep track of these regulations and that all systems processes follow regulatory guidelines.

Finances in Health Administration

Some health care administrators are in charge of the economics of a department, clinic, or organization. This responsibility requires an understanding of accounting principles, as well as financial analysis and reporting, so they can make sound decisions or recommendations in the best interest of patients, employees, and the business. These fiscal duties may range from managing departmental budgets and payroll issues, to overseeing insurance claims and collection.

Quality of Care in Health Administration

The quality of care that patients receive is central to any health care organization. In their role, administrators may find themselves at the nexus of care delivery, cost of care, patient-to-staff ratios, and more. Organizations can make adjustments to care quality based on the analysis of reports, which may include data on patient satisfaction and safety, facility utilization, and treatment efficacy.

What Is Health Administration and What are Essential Skills for the Job?

The Regis College online Master of Health Administration program features courses that are designed to help students develop the skills, expertise, and professional connections to expand their career options. Students who are wondering what health administration is and what it entails can expect training in the following essential skills.

Leadership

Leadership enables health care administrators to motivate people to collaborate and achieve objectives, such as meeting patient health goals or staying within financial constraints without compromising care. New leaders should understand that leadership and management are complementary skills, where the former is inspirational, and the latter is more supervisory. Health care administrators provide health care employees with direction, oversight, and the support to perform at their best.

Strategic Planning

Administrators in health care facilities are often called on to leverage their expertise and experience to perform strategic planning. This may include creating proposals to improve workflow, bottom-line outcomes and most importantly, quality of care. Practiced administrators know the structural value of even the smallest improvements, such as a change to a nurse or physician rotation schedule.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking involves research, reasoning, and deduction to make sound decisions. Health administrators should have an understanding of the benefits of an impartial analysis of both data and intraorganizational conflicts. In turn, they can provide solutions to these problems with confidence and fairness.

Professional and Interpersonal Communication

Health care administrators serve as a liaison between hospital staff and executives, communicating the concerns of one group to the other. As such, administrators must carefully balance priorities, measure tension, build consensus, and provide clarity wherever possible. Administrators need to be receptive to new ideas and frustrations, no matter the source. Communication skills are also useful when leading a team or department, as well as in cultivating buy-in from other managers.

Technical Competency

As previously noted, so much of health care depends on technology, not only for examining patients but also for billing systems, business operations, and patient recordkeeping. An enhanced understanding of software and networking support systems can help enhance the standing and advancement of health administrators.

What Does a Health Administration Program Entail?

Students who are wondering what health administration is, and are considering the Regis College online Master of Health Administration program, will find a range of opportunities to hone the skills listed above. The following courses are a sample of the program’s curriculum.

Health Care Quality Management

Students in this course learn to measure how health care quality has improved. They study continuous quality improvement (CQI), patient security, and how to quantify levels of care. They also learn how to apply leadership skills in the context of organization-wide health care quality changes.

Economics of Health Care

This course examines how market forces affect the costs of treatment and how those costs are distributed among insurance companies, health care organizations, and patients. The Management Accounting in Health Care course listed below complements this course. It teaches accounting principles that are used to further analyze the fiscal health of an organization and make recommendations.

Health Information Systems

Technical competency is necessary to understand and implement information systems in a health care setting. Topics in this course include how to employ evidence-based health care; the distinctions between clinical and administrative software and when to use each type; electronic health records, with an emphasis on confidentiality and data protection; telehealth and the required infrastructure; and how to apply bioinformatics in patient care.

Management Accounting in Health Care

In addition to teaching the fundamentals of health care management accounting, this course instructs students in financial analysis and creating reports for internal and external audiences. Students also develop the advanced professional communication skills to convey data points and conclusions to stakeholders.

What are Careers in Health Administration?

Students and professionals often wonder what health administration is and what career options are available to them. Individuals with a background in health care, business, administration, or nursing can explore a variety of different health administration positions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the overall employment of medical and health services managers to grow 18% from 2018 to 2028. The annual median salary for professionals in these roles is $100,980, according to the BLS. The following are specific career options in health administration.

Health Informatics Specialist

Individuals who work as health informatics specialists are responsible for analyzing data and making decisions based on the data their health care facility collects. They collaborate with other departments to understand what processes are working effectively, and what changes need to be made to improve patient care. Since they work with information technology, it is important for them to exhibit technical skills and the ability to communicate clearly about technology and data. According to May 2020 data from the compensation website PayScale, health informatics specialists earn a median annual salary of about $64,000.

Health Care Marketing Managers

Health care marketing managers often work in a specific medical facility and have a variety of responsibilities. Aspects of their jobs may entail: establishing programs to ensure quality patient care and effective staffing, managing campaigns that promote awareness of the facility, and providing verified promotional stories targeted to potential patients and the public. PayScale data from June 2020 shows medical marketing managers across the U.S. make a median annual salary of around $65,000.

Chief Nursing Officer

Nurses and professionals who become chief nursing officers (CNOs) work at the highest level of nursing in a medical facility. They focus on ensuring a department is fully staffed with effective nurses, that nurse hiring and training is properly executed, and that nurse retention rates are optimal. They are also responsible for managing effective nursing environments, from creating budgets to revising policies. The median annual salary for chief nursing officers across the U.S. is around $128,000, according to PayScale data from May 2020.

Pursue a Master of Health Administration Degree

There is a growing need for health administrators across the health care landscape. Those wishing to become agents of change for health care organizations should consider developing their skills, their technical proficiency, and strengthening their educational foundation.

If you are wondering what health administration is and how to pursue a career in the field, explore how the Regis College online Master of Health Administration program can help you achieve that goal.

Recommended Reading

Expand Your Health Care Administration Skills by Earning an MHA

The Future of Health Care: What Health Administration Professionals Need to Know

Types of Health Care Administration Jobs for MHA Graduates

Sources:

Agency for Health Research and Quality, “Six Domains of Health Care Quality”

American Public Health Association, Health Administration

Healthcare Business Today, “Strategic Planning in Healthcare”

PayScale, Average Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) Salary

PayScale, Average Health Informatics Specialist Salary

PayScale, Average Medical Marketing Manager Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

Urgent Care Association, “Urgent Care Industry White Paper”