Healthcare management and healthcare administration seem like two very similar disciplines because they are. They are two functions that are responsible for the overall management of the healthcare system. In fact, CAHME (the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education) uses the terms interchangeably. However, while it is certainly true that there is a large overlap between the two, there are also some significant differences.
Healthcare Management vs Healthcare Administration
In very broad terms, the biggest difference between healthcare administration and healthcare management is that managers are responsible for the efficient running of a facility, and administrators are responsible for handling a certain department’s staffing issues. Healthcare management is about leading the entire healthcare organization, steering it towards positive goals. Healthcare administration, by contrast, is about things such as budgeting and staff scheduling. Again, the two are very similar. One of the biggest differences between them, however, is their education. To become involved in healthcare management, you should hold a degree in that field, usually the MBA (Master of Business Administration) with a healthcare management concentration. With healthcare administration, by contrast, the MHA (Master in Healthcare Administration) is more relevant.
The Healthcare Management Option
A healthcare manager is responsible for handling the business aspects of the hospital or clinic they work in. The MBA degree in healthcare management is the most relevant degree for this position. This is because this degree ensures graduates are able to balance human resources, competitive pressure, financial responsibilities, and facilities management. In so doing, they ensure the facility they work for is steered towards an overall positive direction. The field is expanding very rapidly, and there is no sign of it slowing down at all. This is in part due to the recent healthcare reforms, but also because the healthcare industry is committed to improving the overall skills and knowledge of its staff.
The coursework of an MBA in Healthcare Management places a strong emphasis on understanding how the healthcare industry is a business. This means that the curriculum includes courses in areas, such as budget management, organizational policies, and patient care standards. Graduates have the professional background and qualifications to develop a business plan that is specific to the interests and goals of the healthcare institute that they work for. Graduates are strong managers, negotiators, leaders, problem solvers, and critical decision makers.
Healthcare managers do not usually have any direct patient care responsibility. However, they do have direct contact with patients, consulting with them on how management can be improved. Through these conversations, they are able to make important decisions that have a direct impact on employees and patients. Leadership skills, therefore, are an absolute must.
Healthcare managers are usually found in facilities, such as:
- Mental health organizations
- Universities and research institutions
- Rehabilitation centers
- Nursing homes
- Health insurance companies
Specific job titles for healthcare management include:
- Medical accounts receivable manager
- Risk management director
- Human resource manager
- Medical staff relations manager
- Marketing and public affairs manager
- Patient care services manager
- Nursing administration manager
- Medical office manager
- Health information manager
The Healthcare Administration Option
A healthcare administrator manages the staff that is employed in the healthcare facility that they work for. Hence, knowledge is needed in relation to clinical practices as well. A healthcare administrator effectively manages patient care, but also focuses on managing health informatics, improving the experience clients have, and more. They often manage the filing systems of hospital records as well. The skills they have are applied to organizing the available health resources in a way that ensures they are utilized in the best way possible. They often oversee a single department, although, in smaller organizations, they may oversee the full facility.
Healthcare administration, clearly, is more about making sure the members of a department are able to function properly. Most healthcare administrators have completed the MHA degree, which equips them with the confidence to make analytical decisions, and to manage people within dynamic, complex environments that exist in all the different healthcare facilities. They usually hold responsibility for things such as supporting and encouraging staff, meeting all relevant regulatory requirements, managing finances and providing expert, compassionate care to patients and their loved ones.
The most in-demand healthcare administrators are those who have experience in providing direct patient care. However, many also have specialization in administrative areas, business, or public health, which means they have very little direct patient care. What matters most, however, is that they are able to hire and retain the best staff, can handle finances, and are able to respond to a constantly changing, challenging, and evolving regulatory environment.
The responsibility of a healthcare administrator, above everything else, is to make sure that their department is able to run smoothly at all times. Depending on the facility, this may mean they have extensive patient contact, or even none at all. Their responsibilities are equally varied, therefore.
Healthcare administrators are usually found in facilities such as:
- Government agencies
Specific job titles for healthcare administrator include:
- Vice president of healthcare administration services
- Home healthcare and operations management
- Director of healthcare services
- Community relations manager
- Insurance underwriter
- Social service manager
- Human resource manager
There is a substantial overlap between the responsibilities of a healthcare manager and a healthcare administrator. However, their actual tasks are actually very different. An administrator manages and supervises staff, as well as the financial aspects of their department or their facility. A manager, by contrast, has a much broader set of responsibilities. They are more closely related to the HR representative of a for-profit business. Their goal is to improve the actual structure and running of their facility, ensuring they are able to respond to changing demand and emerging crisis.
Education and Training
One of the biggest differences between the two is the education they receive. Interestingly, it is more common for a healthcare administrator to only hold a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration. That being said, those who do hold the MHA degree tend to be in higher demand and they attract higher salaries as well. Healthcare managers almost exclusively hold a master’s degree, being the aforementioned MBA with a healthcare management concentration.
Both healthcare management and healthcare administration professionals are managers. However, healthcare management is about managing facilities, whereas healthcare administration is about managing people. Healthcare management, again, is broader, looking at issues such as demographic statistics and accounting. Healthcare administration, by contrast, focuses on the specific details that have an impact on how a hospital department is being run.
One of the most important connections between healthcare managers and healthcare administrators is that they both rely on each other. Because the manager has to be make sure the entire healthcare network or system functions properly, and the administrator manages the actual staff within that network or system, the two clearly need each other. It is also for this reason that, in small healthcare facilities, one professional will usually take on both roles.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), both healthcare managers and healthcare administrators are classed as ‘medical and health services managers’. Although they have done this for many years, it might be that a change will come at the next count. This is because medical and health services managers only need a bachelor’s degree, whereas the healthcare manager almost always requires a master’s degree. As a result, the figures provided by the BLS can provide a slightly skewed picture. What they do provide is some knowledge on where both professionals can work, and what sort of job duties they are likely to have within their chosen facility.
Resources and References:
- MBA in Healthcare vs Administration – Differences between an MHA and an MBA in healthcare (MBA Healthcare Management)
- Healthcare Management vs Healthcare Administration: Core Differences – Primary differences between an MHA and an MBA in healthcare. (MHA Degree)
- Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) – Accrediting body for healthcare management programs. (CAHME.org)