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What’s Driving the Growth of Healthcare Management in Non-Clinical Settings?

September 14, 2021

Healthcare management is the fastest-growing subfield of a sector that accounts for more than 17% of the nation’s economy. The healthcare industry as a whole employs 11% of American workers, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employers will create more than 130,000 new jobs for healthcare managers and administrators over the next 10 years. Many of those positions will be in clinical settings such as hospitals, outpatient medical facilities, surgical centers and doctors’ offices, but some will be in non-direct care settings that provide various forms of support to patient-focused healthcare organizations.

It’s impossible to know whether the BLS includes healthcare management jobs in patient care-adjacent settings in its figures—or whether their estimates accurately reflect the growth in demand for healthcare managers in non-clinical settings. But as the healthcare industry grows, pharmaceutical companies, medical billing firms, medical equipment manufacturers and other non–direct care organizations that provide significant assistance to patient care institutions will need more managers. The BLS projections may actually underestimate future demand if they’re not including opportunities for healthcare managers and administrators outside of patient-care settings in their calculations.

“Advancements in technology are creating new demand for healthcare industry leaders and healthcare executives in non-clinical settings.”

If you’re looking at the managerial and administrative career paths available to healthcare MBA graduates, don’t neglect to consider roles in non–direct care settings. While many healthcare management careers are geared toward professionals looking to work in hospitals or for healthcare networks, the Online MBA in Healthcare Management from Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management will also prepare you to take advantage of the growing demand for skilled managers in other areas of healthcare.

What’s driving the demand for healthcare managers in non-clinical settings?

Several factors drive demand for qualified medical and health services managers in non-clinical settings. There’s the fact that Americans are living longer but aren’t necessarily healthier, and an aging population is using more healthcare. Pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers are scrambling to devise new treatments for ailments that primarily affect the elderly. Health insurance companies are processing more claims. And agencies that coordinate in-home medical services are dealing with ever-larger patient loads that are creating acute staffing challenges.

The expansion and diversification of what constitutes healthcare is also a factor. Everything from wearable vital sign monitoring systems to nutrition tracking apps to wellness coaching may now fall under the healthcare banner, and more companies want to address changing patient and consumer expectations proactively. Having healthcare managers in senior-level positions allows companies outside of the traditional medical sphere to navigate the complex world of billing and insurance.

Finally, advancements in technology are creating new demand for healthcare industry leaders and healthcare executives in non-clinical settings. Managing large-scale Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems, computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems and other communication and recordkeeping tools designed for healthcare applications is a major undertaking because these systems are subject to complicated laws and regulations. There are entire healthcare management careers focused on specializations such as data analytics and data science, health IT, biomedical research, health informatics, telehealth systems oversight and EMR installation and configuration.

“As compelling as your advanced degree will likely be to prospective employers, the unique mix of business and healthcare skills and knowledge you bring to the table will open even more doors.”

Success in non-clinical settings often comes down to a grasp of both the business challenges unique to medical environments and the healthcare delivery challenges businesses face. That’s why Weatherhead’s healthcare MBA curriculum pairs the core courses found in a traditional Master of Business Administration program with a cutting-edge, healthcare-focused core that comprises approximately 40% of the program’s credits. It attracts both experienced business people and providers looking to pivot into administrative careers.

What do healthcare managers in non-clinical settings do?

Medical and healthcare administrators who work for non-direct care organizations support operations and drive strategy in the larger healthcare ecosystem. What exactly they do on a day-to-day basis depends on the types of organizations they lead. The regulatory affairs director of a pharmaceutical manufacturer, for example, will do work that’s very different from that of a health informatics officer in a research lab. They, in turn, will have responsibilities quite different from those of the chief executive officer of a MedTech company.

It is possible, however, to paint a picture of what healthcare managers do in very broad strokes. Many are involved in:

  • Compliance oversight: In pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing, healthcare managers ensure compliance with legislative and regulatory requirements. In research laboratories and health data analytics firms, they might ensure all activities comply with HIPAA rules governing patient privacy.
  • Corporate development: Many healthcare managers are responsible for identifying externally facing enhancements, potential partnerships and business opportunities to drive growth.
  • Human resource management: Some healthcare managers supervise healthcare staff, develop and implement staffing policy and procedures, promote positive organizational culture and handle financial, operational and administrative tasks related to staff acquisition and management.
  • Information management: Medicine’s growing reliance on digital database systems to store and archive records has increased the complexity of recordkeeping in clinical and non-clinical settings. Healthcare managers may be responsible for ensuring information integrity through the implementation of policies designed to promote EHR usability and safety.
  • Market research: Healthcare is increasingly data-driven, and some administrators manage the analysts who find, organize and analyze information on efficacy, consumer behavior, competitors and market conditions to drive decision-making.
  • Operations management: Some healthcare administration and management careers revolve around operations, which in non-clinical settings can include processes related to finance, supply chains, staffing, facilities management, product development, compliance, claims and quality assurance.
  • Strategic planning: Uncertainty is especially unwelcome in medical environments, making planning vital for healthcare management. Across organizations, managers and administrators help devise goals, predict needs and adjust organizational vision to account for evolving legislation, payor mandates and consumer expectations.

What types of non-clinical organizations benefit from healthcare management expertise?

Examples of leadership and managerial positions in non-clinical settings include insurance claims managers, pharmaceutical account managers, medical device sales managers and health information directors, though there are many other titles for healthcare management professionals in non-clinical settings. Healthcare MBA graduates go on to work at insurance companies, medical billing firms, medical equipment suppliers and pharmaceutical companies. Others work for federal or state agencies concerned with public health or in medical or biotech research.

Increasingly, there’s less divide between clinical medicine and healthcare-adjacent fields. Some healthcare managers work for nutrition and fitness firms, scientific analytics firms, wearables manufacturers and auditing firms that specialize in healthcare accountancy or compliance. They help these and other non-clinical organizations work more efficiently and effectively with patient-care providers, hospitals and healthcare networks because they understand the regulatory and operational challenges that drive decision-making in healthcare environments.

Healthcare managers in non-clinical settings ultimately serve as a bridge between clinical medicine and other areas of healthcare and related fields, ensuring that professionals on both sides understand each others’ needs, limitations and challenges.

12 skills essential to success in healthcare management

The healthcare landscape is continually evolving. On the patient-care side, Value-Based Care (VBC) and provider consolidation are changing how doctors, nurses and other providers deliver care and are compensated. In non-clinical settings, healthcare professionals have to adapt to regulation-driven changes in medical billing, pharmaceutical development and medical device sales. Professionals in non-clinical healthcare management careers need to be up-to-date on everything from health insurance regulations and medical malpractice law to the rules governing medical research and patient privacy. Vital skills for healthcare managers in all settings include:

Analytical Skills

Healthcare managers may not perform data analyses themselves but must understand how to use the information generated by processes, outcomes, sales or research to identify areas of opportunity. Weatherhead faculty members teach healthcare MBA candidates analytical skills through coursework focused on statistics, decision modeling, decision science and analytics in healthcare.

Clinical Skills

Professionals in non-clinical healthcare management careers benefit from clinical experience because it gives them a window into the world of patient care most business people don’t have. Clinical experience—even at the volunteer level—is a distinguishing healthcare management skill and there’s an associated wage premium.

Communication Skills

Healthcare managers are responsible for ensuring that communication flows unimpeded in all directions, which is especially important in non-clinical settings that support patient-care operations.

Critical Thinking Skills

Leaders in non-clinical healthcare settings must understand how healthcare-focused policies, rules and regulations impact healthcare-adjacent organizations and population health so they can use that knowledge to examine challenges from all angles.

Decision-Making Skills

Professionals in healthcare management careers must make decisions that are not only smart, strategic and evidence-based but also in line with the needs of organizational partners in the clinical world and in public health.

Leadership Skills

Healthcare managers need to inspire others to both do their best work and deliver output that meets the exacting quality standards of the medical world, which is why Case Western Reserve students assess and develop their leadership potential in multiple classes in the MBA Core.

Health law, health insurance regulation, EHR confidentiality rules and medical malpractice are all covered in Weatherhead School of Management’s online healthcare MBA curriculum because managers need to understand healthcare policy and law to oversee compliance.

Operations Management Skills

Competent operations management is critical to success in clinical and non-clinical settings, and healthcare managers are often responsible for designing, assessing and implementing operational procedures and policies.

Process Improvement Skills

Skills related to process improvement correlate with wage premiums in healthcare management because employers as diverse as healthcare networks, insurance companies and research labs rely on managers to address and fix systems issues.

Research Skills and Experience

Healthcare managers with skills in clinical research can work in medical device development, in pharmaceutical development and for laboratories doing biomedical research or clinical trials. Case Western Reserve is an R1 university and a top-25 medical school for research, and healthcare MBA candidates learn about research development and design related to improving population health and disparities.

Strategic Planning Skills

Health managers with demonstrable strategic planning skills earn a salary premium, which is why healthcare management degree candidates at Case Western Reserve learn to develop strategic and tactical actions throughout both the MBA Core and the Healthcare Core.

Technology Skills

The widespread use of EHRs, specialized coding and billing software and informatics systems has made technology skills indispensable in the entirety of the healthcare field. Healthcare managers must be prepared to adapt to the advances in technology coming around the bend.

How CWRU’s online MBA program helps students refine necessary healthcare management skills

What you’ll learn in Weatherhead’s healthcare MBA program is governed by the challenges healthcare managers face in the real world and prepares students to excel in both clinical and non-clinical settings. The 48-credit hour curriculum covers not only business management fundamentals but also decision making in healthcare management, lean operations, the management challenges that arise in medical and medical-adjacent settings, regulatory issues in healthcare management and more.

You’ll graduate from this degree program with a toolkit full of career-boosting resources because the online student experience at Case Western Reserve is so similar to the on-campus experience. Class sizes are small and the student-to-instructor ratio is low so you can form meaningful relationships with faculty and peers, and you’ll participate in live debates, group projects, presentations and student teaching experiences. You’ll learn from healthcare industry leaders at the university’s collaborating healthcare systems, including Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, MetroHealth and the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center. You’ll also work closely with a Student Success Coach and have access to career counseling services starting on your first day in the program.

Most importantly, you’ll graduate from Weatherhead’s MBA program with a firm grasp of traditional management competencies plus a deep understanding of the kinds of guidance patient-focused healthcare facilities and non-clinical healthcare and medical research firms need to operate safely, efficiently and cost-effectively. As compelling as your advanced degree will likely be to prospective employers, the unique mix of business and healthcare skills and knowledge you bring to the table will open even more doors.

There’s no time like the present to apply to earn a healthcare MBA. To get started, learn more about the admissions requirements or the healthcare MBA curriculumFinancial aid is available, and career opportunities open to MBA holders in clinical and non-clinical areas of healthcare are some of the most lucrative around.