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Business and Healthcare at the Crossroads

There’s a new trend in the business management world: the roles of business administrators, data analysts, medical professionals, and healthcare practitioners are blending, with a larger number of MBA graduates going into the medical field due to increasing demand for qualified healthcare professionals on the forefront of technology and patient-centered care.  As a result, many new and exciting hybrid roles have emerged from these two career paths.

There are several good reasons why business and healthcare have become so closely intertwined:

  1. Cloud-based data has increased the prevalence of patient record digitization so as to make it streamlined and easy to access in real-time, regardless of location.
  2. Hospital and clinic staff should be cross-trained in personalized patient care and treatment, database systems, data analysis, and healthcare informatics.  Cross-training helps to prevent hazardous combinations of prescription medications, especially in high-risk populations like children and the elderly.
  3. The professionalization of nursing has made independent clinics and private practices almost ubiquitous, necessitating a more broad-based set of credentials—hence healthcare informatics, administration/management training, and data analysis being increasingly interconnected.

Business and Healthcare at the Crossroads

In addition to these considerations, healthcare administrators often must make difficult ethical decisions involving patient care, prescription medications, end-of-life choices, family wishes, and so on. Oftentimes, these are difficult decisions that require excellent diplomacy and leadership skills, as well as knowledge of medical nuances, prescription medications, and current health care legislation.  According to Ohio University, “Being prepared for these situations is why ethical leadership and decision-making are key components of health care administration … Both skills are necessary for future leaders seeking to navigate evolving U.S. health are challenges.”

Ethical Dilemmas

There are a few common types of ethical dilemmas with which healthcare administrators are often involved: balancing fiscal responsibility; mitigating legal risks; negotiating patient privacy concerns; and managing influential relationships.  For example, a patient may choose to leave the hospital, despite the fact that it may not be in their best interest, medically or physically-speaking.  

However, the patient may, in fact, be better able to recover from home, rather than a hospital room.  The hospital is legally required to step aside in the event that a patient chooses to leave the hospital; in this case, how does a hospital administrator step in to balance the doctor’s ethical obligation to provide the best patient care available with respecting the patient’s wishes and protecting the hospital from lawsuits or financial ruin?

There are other potential conflicting factors to consider, as well.  For example, pharmaceutical representatives routinely put pressure on doctors and nurse practitioners to prescribe one particular medication over another.  In such a case, the doctor may feel under pressure to prescribe said medication or keep the patient in the hospital, despite the patient’s wishes.  Or the doctor may be tempted to prescribe a commonly-used medication when an alternate treatment or different prescription may be more appropriate.  

The fiscal needs of the hospital or doctors, however, must always come second to the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual condition of the patient—or, the sum of whole person, rather than their mere physical components.  

Career Outlook

Because of the above factors, the demand for healthcare administrators and medical/health service managers is at an all-time high.  According to Regis College and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a projected increase of over 56,000 medical and healthcare administration related jobs over the next eight years, with a projected growth of 17 percent.  

With a median salary of $94,500 per year, the potential increase in pay for a nurse, healthcare practitioner, or middle manager is nothing to scoff at.  Involvement at the management level can also strengthen career skills related to health care legislation, policy regulation, contract negotiation, and strategic planning.  Moreover, an administrative role allows for involvement on more of a big-picture level, which can be more inherently satisfying than limiting involvement to the day-to-day details.  

Rather than doctors, nurses, and healthcare administrators being at odds with each other, it’s entirely possible for hospital and clinic management to work together toward the same goals—especially if the administrators involved in policy decisions are doctors and nurses, themselves, rather than coming from a purely business background.  Furthermore, because administrative changes are happening so rapidly, the need for more administrators facilitates more opportunity for current doctors and nurses to step into management positions via more advanced education in healthcare informatics, healthcare administration, and so on

In other words, the more cross-training, the better.  More improved and effective communication is likely to be eased with an increased number of current nurse practitioners and doctors transitioning into new roles, rather than healthcare administrators coming to a healthcare facility fresh from an MBA program from out of state.  Fortunately, the number of online and traditional programs designed for working doctors and nurses is easing these transitions for mid-career professionals interested in taking on management positions, while also maintaining their roles as hands-on healthcare professionals.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to obtain various certifications, whether it be through online or in-person academic programs.  There are also a number of professional associations like the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management, where you can find a great deal of information about certification exams, national membership, and so on.

Over to you

If you’re interested in learning how to plan, direct, and coordinate the delivery of healthcare, consider a career as a healthcare administrator.  Not only will you feel good about your larger role in the medical world, but you’ll also be able to effect positive, significant change on a daily basis simply by serving as a guide to colleagues, patients, and society.  Even if you think that a career in business is the only route that interests you, a management position in medicine or healthcare may be surprisingly satisfying because it has to do with the business of taking care of people’s health, rather than the proverbial bottom line of the corporate world.

Are you a registered nurse or business professional considering a new career path?  Post your experience, comments, or questions in the comments section, below!

Image: Group portrait of young doctors in a meeting at hospital


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Daphne Stanford is a DJ for Radio Boise. She writes poetry, nonfiction, and lyric essays. There are other ways she enjoys spending her time, including hiking, piano, singing at inappropriate times, and good conversation with friends & family. Find her on Twitter @TPS_on_KRBX https://www.mixcloud.com/DaphneElizabethLariosStanford/

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