While medicine is rapidly evolving due to medical technology and demographic changes, healthcare administration itself is changing almost as quickly.
Let’s look at the trends that are shaping healthcare administration, as well as the factors driving them. We’ll also address the actual changes occurring on the ward floor.
A Focus on Doing More with Less
The Affordable Care Act was passed as an attempt to address healthcare costs rising at three times the rate of inflation. This led to many hospitals hiring industrial engineers, Six Sigma consultants, and Lean consultants.
The goals given to these professionals ranged from streamlining operations to increasing throughput and decreasing delays, reducing medical errors, or finding ways to reduce administrative bloat.
Specialization of Healthcare Administration
Healthcare administration used to be the purview of retiring doctors and nurses; their expertise and experience was considered sufficient to manage their peers. As medical facilities became divided among many different specialties and business management became critical to coordinating so many specialties and outsourced functions, business managers moved in.
Yet medicine remains a separate discipline and the growth of competing rules and regulations impacting it makes the average MBA unqualified to manage a medical facility.
This led to the development of the online masters in health administration, a master’s degree unique to managing healthcare providers. This isn’t as commonly available as an MBA, so you may need to earn an online MHA degree to receive this certification. However, once you have the MHA, you’ll find that you’re given priority over other applicants whether you want to manage a large doctor’s office, dental office, day surgery center, or hospital department.
Healthcare IT Evolving into Its Own Discipline
Electronic medical records systems are very different from product data management systems and the average document management system.
The data must be available at all times to those who have the need to know, but with extra levels of security involved to prevent unauthorized access by the curious and malicious.
This is on top of new IT demands in hospitals like personal wearable technology that captures one’s health metrics and telemedicine tools. Consolidating medical IT systems as doctors’ offices become subsidiaries of hospital centered healthcare networks and upgrading IT systems is different than upgrading the average Oracle database.
This is because corrupted health records can result in critical information lost at the risk of not knowing what could save someone’s life or outages of EMR systems that bring a hospital to a halt. A factory can still finish what is on the assembly line if the inventory management system is down, switching to tracking data manually for later data entry. Doctors and nurses cannot care for patients if they don’t have their medical records, medication schedules, and other critical data.
This is leading to healthcare IT becoming its own discipline in information technology, though it is more often taught at nursing schools than the computer science department. Healthcare IT management is also becoming its own master’s degree separate from the broader IT management degrees you can earn.
The world of healthcare is ever evolving and there really is no telling what the future holds. But, we can expect health care to be more and more location independent and interconnected, which will transform the way we approach healthcare administration forever.