Description of the Field
Healthcare is a dynamic industry that is continuously in need of talented professionals to keep up with its rapid changes and to meet the new standards of the patient community. Issues that are highly emphasized in the field include how to improve the delivery of healthcare, who will be giving the services, and how to finance these services. A background in economics is strong preparation for the required analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills for entry into healthcare services in all sectors.
Professionals in public and private healthcare services provide institutions and organizations effective solutions to improve healthcare quality and affordability and often advocacy to influence change. They offer their services by undertaking the expected growing problems in today’s society to ensure service performance satisfaction and to develop better methods of health awareness and management. To effectively deal with crucial challenges of our day, strategies must be cross-disciplinary and encourage cross-specialty collaboration, particularly with oral health, behavioral health, and primary care. These professionals tackle current problems such as:
- Management of an aging population with a longer life expectancy
- Better-informed patients demanding high-quality care
- Integration of healthcare delivery to enable organizations to create accessible, appropriate, and comprehensive care pathways for all people
- Pressure from business, government, insurers, and patients to control costs and demonstrate the value of the services delivered
- Continued advances in medical technology
- Collaboration among provider organizations, physicians, businesses, insurers, and others to improve community health status and system interoperability
- Increased emphasis on disease prevention and wellness promotion
- Data management and integration of public health, healthcare quality, and pay-for-performance
- Using data to understand and who is at the highest and lowest risk for poor health outcomes
- Coordinated care and service to wounded veterans
(Taken in part from the American College of Healthcare Executives, 2013).
The private sector of the healthcare field is often where innovation originates. Companies and think tanks in the private sector seek solutions to public health problems, and they do this with an eye toward making a profit. The innovation that comes from the private sector often leads to advances in technology, such as cures and treatments for disease and information technology advancements. Economists employed in the private sector may work in biotechnology, pharmacology, health insurance organizations and in healthcare consulting firms. Healthcare consultants may aid governments or large health organizations such as insurance companies, university medical centers, and other corporations to manage the cost and services associated with their healthcare programs and to manage the increasing amount of data about patients. This data is often used for patient risk stratification and chronic disease management. Practices are increasingly using data to understand their patients, and what diseases they are living with. In many cases there are multiple chronic diseases at play, so risk stratification is a method for practices to use to understand who is at highest risk and lowest risk for poor health outcomes. This data may be used by insurance companies, hospitals, and other private and public sector institutions.
Working for a private firm may include conducting outcomes research, modeling, reporting, and other relevant analyses, within applicable legal and regulatory guidelines. Often such work includes compliance and becoming familiar with government guidelines in service and product delivery.
On the Job
Entry level healthcare consultants may start off with an analyst position, where most of their work consists of administrative, analytical, logistical, and proof-reading projects. This position also entails conducting healthcare-related research and preparing healthcare related training and resources to make recommendations for clients. After a few years of training, these healthcare analysts can move up to become senior healthcare consultants or healthcare executives. Typically, however, in the private sector graduate degrees are often needed for advanced and even entry-level employment.
The $884-billion-a-year private health insurance business continues to grow rapidly. Attractive jobs may be found as healthcare information analysts evaluating, via quantitative analysis, the health outcomes and economic impacts of health care interventions, governmental policy changes, and population health dynamics. Analysts may work to identify potential areas for improvement of health care affordability, health care quality, customer retention, and market share growth, giving exposure to both government and industry compliance and business growth opportunity. Also, most investment banks have teams devoted to the healthcare industry and some, such as Cain Brothers, are boutique investment banks that focus entirely on the industry.
There are numerous career paths in the field of healthcare. Because of the rapid changes in the healthcare system, there are many different settings for professionals beyond hospitals, such as consulting firms, pharma and bio tech firms, think tanks/research institutes, and foundations. Career options in healthcare can range from a variety of positions in both private/commercial and government sectors. These professionals may work as health executives, policy consultants, analysts, or researchers.
Entry level jobs in healthcare management usually consist of specialized entry- to mid- level management positions in areas such as finance, marketing and public affairs, or government relations. It takes about ten years to achieve a senior level executive job, and these positions include chief financial officers, chief executive officers, or chief operating officers. Healthcare consultants typically work for specific healthcare consulting firms or management firms that have a healthcare division, unless they are a boutique consulting firm specializing exclusively in healthcare or a segment of healthcare services such as IT solutions.
Because the healthcare industry is constantly developing, the demand for professionals in this field is very high. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be an increase of 22% in healthcare managers employed from 2010 to 2020. This rate is higher than the average for all occupations. In today’s society, medical services continue to increase as the baby-boomer generation begins to age and people are living longer. New tools are being created and employed as private practice, payers, and providers are increasingly using data to understand their patients, and what diseases they are living with. In many cases there are multiple chronic diseases at play, so risk stratification is a method for practices to use to understand who is at highest risk and lowest risk for poor health outcomes. Because of these factors, health executives and consultants, both public and private, will be needed to manage, analyze, and communicate medical information, as well as organize health resources to keep up with the rise in patients and physicians.
Qualifications Necessary to Enter the Field
Careers in both private and public health organizations share similar requirements and competition is seen at all levels of careers in healthcare. Thus, a degree of some kind is required to work in the field. In order to be qualified for a management or research career in healthcare, employers look for academic training, past related experience, analytical skills, communication skills, adaptability, and dependability. A bachelor’s degree is enough to go into many entry-level health services jobs such as health analysts, healthcare managers, and medical managers. Although many schools offer undergraduate degrees in health service management, degrees in other areas such as business, economics, or the liberal arts are sufficient to enter the field as well.
In order to advance in a career in healthcare, a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration or Public Health may be needed. There are also other advancement options if you’re considering a job in the private sector of healthcare such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree with a concentration in Healthcare Administration. These advanced degree programs are essential to achieving a higher level job in the healthcare field.
Sample Group of Employers
Booz Allen and Hamilton- http://www.boozallen.com
Cain Brothers – http://www.cainbrothers.com
Deloitte Consulting- http://www.deloitte.com
FTI Consulting - http://www.fticonsulting.com/industries/healthcare-and-life-sciences
Huron Consulting Group- http://www.huronconsultinggroup.com
UnitedHealth Group- www.unitedhealthgroup.com
Selected U.Va. Organizations/CIOS
For a full list of organizations at UVA, please see: https://atuva.student.virginia.edu/Organizations
Global Medical Dental Brigades
Global Public Health Brigades
MEDLife at U.Va.
Sample UVA Career Programs
Careers in Healthcare
Exploring Careers in Healthcare
Health Careers Shuffle
Resources for Additional Information
- American College of Healthcare Executives- http://www.ache.org/carsvcs/ycareer.cfm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics- http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Management/Medical-and-health-services-managers.htm
- Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health- http://www.jhsph.edu/
- Unite for Sight Global Health online modules - http://www.uniteforsight.org/global-health-careers/
- Vault Career Guide to Health Care Management
- Vault Career Guide to Alternative Health Care Jobs
- Vault Career Guide to Health Care Provider Jobs
- Healthcare Economics, Healthcare Medical Economics, and Medical Economics- http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Healthcare-Economics-Healthcare-Medical-Economics-140726?trk=myg_ugrp_ovr
- Global Public Health- https://www.linkedin.com/groups/120372/profile
Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, “Career Opportunities in Public Health and Nutrition,” 2013
Special thanks to alumna Caitlin Feller for contributing to this overview.