Curious about what a future as a healthcare administration consultant might look like? It’s a lucrative career that isn’t going anywhere soon. Here’s a look at what health management consultants do, how to become one, and why they’re vital in keeping the healthcare industry flowing.
What is a Healthcare Administrator Consultant
Health administration consultants work either independently or as part of a consulting agency to provide guidance and insight to client teams in the healthcare industry. They are often hired by larger healthcare companies and startups alike to iron out kinks in business efficiency and make sure the company is in compliance with federal and state regulations.
An effective health administration consultant typically has strong communication skills and an analytical mind. They’ll need a keen attention to detail and will need to maintain and create organized record and reports. Excellent time management skills and the ability to work independently are also a must for the position.
Healthcare consultants may be hired by medical facilities, managed care facilities, government agencies, pharmaceutical businesses, and any other company in the healthcare industry. They have a knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, and the ability to translate that into a full audit of each organization’s administrative department.
The exact scope of their work may greatly vary depending on each individual client’s needs, but is likely to involve looking into some of the following areas of a client’s health care business:
- Financial management
- Health information technology
- Healthcare quality standards
- Human resources
- Legal compliance
Health administration consultants work to identify issues that may be preventing the facility from running completely smoothly. They perform research that delves deeper into the internal workings of the company to locate problem areas and create strategies to fix them. They may analyze financial data, employee numbers, and even conduct interviews with management and staff to get multiple perspectives on what may benefit the business.
After they’ve completed their research, health administrator consultants will generally prepare and present a report on their findings to present to the facility’s board or CEO. From there, decisions and changes in policy can be made according to the consultant’s results.
In some cases, the consultant might stay on board for a while to help implement whatever changes are being made.
The first step toward a future as a health administration consultant is a college degree. A master’s degree is the standard for most healthcare consultants and recommended for this career path, though a bachelor’s degree may be enough to get a foot in the industry door in a lower level position.
A bachelor’s degree is a must-have for those looking to pursue career as a healthcare consultant. Students are advised to choose an industry related field like business, health administration, health information, or finance. Nursing school is also a great place to start, as a BS in nursing can lead to a higher salary in the future.
Helpful classes for this career path may include courses covering health policy and regulations, healthcare information systems, financial management, and statistics.
Most health administration consultants are expected to hold an advanced degree, but there are a few jobs in the industry suited to consultants with just an undergraduate degree. These may include:
- Office manager at a private practice or clinic
- Administrative assistant at a residential facility (like a nursing home or rehab)
- Member of a healthcare consulting team
- Healthcare HR assistant
- Reimbursement specialist
Students who want to go out on their own as a healthcare consultant following completion of their degree will likely want to opt to continue their education in graduate school.
A master’s degree makes sure graduates enter the industry with a working understanding of the healthcare system. They’ll be prepared to lead an administrative team to sustainable success, having completed a program that proves competency within its curriculum.
Applicable master’s degree programs may include:
- Master of Business Administration (MBA)
- Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA)
- Master of Public Administration (MPA)
- Master of Public Health (MPH)
- Master of Science (MS)
Some universities offer dual MPH/MBA degrees; speak to a school representative for more details about programs offered.
Classes will prepare students for a number of career options upon completing their degree. They can expect to leave the program with full competency in the issues that are important to healthcare management today. Topics covered in a relevant master’s program may include:
- Community health
- Information technology
- Finance and economics
- Health policy and administration
- Healthcare delivery models
- Laws and regulations
- Leadership and ethics
- Management and strategy
- Marketing and communication
- Quality assessment and improvement
When looking for the right graduate program, prospective students should take care to find schools that are accredited by the Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). This is the only accrediting body that evaluates and endorses schools based on their healthcare management programs.
Though a bachelor’s in a related field may give students a helpful leg up in their graduate degree, it isn’t entirely necessary as a prerequisite for a career as a health administration consultant. However, a degree in a field like finance, business, health administration, or health IT systems may be more effective than others in preparing a student for the work required to earn a master’s degree in health administration.
Job Titles and Roles
Healthcare management consultants have several choices when it comes to the details of their employment.
Many consultants choose to simply work for themselves, taking on clients and completing jobs on a contract basis. While this provides a great deal of autonomy over one’s career, it also means that the consultant won’t receive health care, vacations, or the other benefits that come with outside employment.
Health administration consultants may also work as a member of a larger consulting agency. In this capacity, consultants are assigned or take on work on a job-by-job basis. They don’t have to seek out their own work, but they don’t have the same amount of flexibility as consultants who are self-employed.
Many healthcare organizations prefer to hire a consultant to keep on their staff. They work directly with management to make sure the company or facility is running efficiently and according to regulations.
Below are samples from real job descriptions (edited for clarity) submitted by businesses looking for health administration consultants. While not meant to be a complete representation of what’s available on the job market, these snippets can give prospective healthcare consultants an idea of what their futures may look like.
Healthcare Compliance Consultant - Compliance Consulting Organization
This mid-level consultant is responsible for fostering relationships with clients and working both collaboratively and independently on client engagements. Additional responsibilities include drafting briefings, reviewing protocols, and creating reports.
Qualified candidates will possess:
- Superior writing skills
- In-depth technical capabilities and professional knowledge
- Excellent oral communication and presentation skills
- Exceptional interpersonal skills
Healthcare Strategy Consultant - Consulting Firm Specializing in Veteran’s Affairs
Seeking candidates with management consulting experience, ideally in a healthcare related field. Candidates should have experience across general consulting functions such as process improvement, project management, strategic planning and/or implementation support for business operations.
The role requires strong analytical and management skills; strong organization and prioritization skills; ability to thrive in a diverse and dynamic work environment; strategic thinking and planning capabilities; and a flexible and innovative attitude
Quality Consultant - Pharmaceutical Consulting Organization
If you’re seeking a career that affects change in the health care system, consider joining our team. We advocate for transforming the health care system by making health care more affordable and accessible, increasing consumers’ engagement in their health care decisions, and offering a diverse range of products and services that promote the health and well-being of our members.
In this role, you will:
- Develop and implement quality improvement programs related to clinical quality measurement and outcomes and assists in resolving deficiencies that impact plan compliance to regulatory accreditation standards and/or quality measurement.
- Ensure activities meet regulatory requirements of the state or product and reflects our company’s quality strategies, approaches and work plans.
Healthcare Business Consultant - Health Administration Software Company
Activities will include delivering Professional Services business consulting, client facing, billable projects through solution crafting, vision building, architectural guidance/design, product demonstration, training, educating customers on best practices and optimal use of our products to improve efficiency and satisfy client’s defined business requirements. Gathering and defining requirements, analysis, configuration, unit testing, and customer engagement. Candidates should have strong communication skills and proven leadership skills. Candidates must be willing to travel on site with customers as needed.
Healthcare Quality Improvement Specialist - Privately-Owned Healthcare Facility
This position is responsible for providing leadership to ensure validity of measurement, accuracy of data, patient safety and regulatory compliance with quality improvement, reporting, and regulatory initiatives. A clinical quality improvement specialist uses a combination of nursing, quality, and informatics knowledge to manage data, process, and information systems. In this role, the objectives would include improving clinical care as well as clinical documentation and reporting for treatment, prevention, and drug administration regimens, record keeping practices, workflow procedures, medical decision-making practices, and pay-for-performance programs.
Professional Certification and Continuing Education
Healthcare consultants looking to add an extra credential to their resumes may consider working to become a Certified Healthcare Business Consultant (CHBC)
This credential doesn’t involve any additional education prior to qualification but does require that candidates gain plenty of experience working as industry consultants before they’re eligible for certification.
According to the National Society of Certified Healthcare Business Consultants (NSCHBC), the organization that offers the credential: “The CHBC Certification Exam is intended for seasoned business healthcare consultants who have demonstrated an understanding of the total healthcare business environment, both practice and financial management.
To gain certification, candidates must take an exam administered by the NSCHBC. They may opt to first take one of the recommended review courses, but it’s not required for eligibility. The examination takes four hours to complete and requires a score of 70 percent or higher to pass.
In order to keep an active CBHC certification, healthcare consultants must maintain membership in the NSCHBC. They must also complete a minimum of 50 Continuing Education hours every two years
Salary and Career Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers (the umbrella under which healthcare consulting falls) earn a median annual salary of $98,340 per year.
Health administration consultants can expect to enjoy a steady demand for their services, as the baby boomer generation continues to age and have an increased need for health services. This, among other factors, is a major reason why health administration jobs are experiencing 20 percent job growth--much higher than the national average.
Another factor in the anticipated job growth expected for health management consultants is the fact that many offices are making the switch to storing their records 100 percent electronically. The information technology education that healthcare consultants will have learned during their master’s program will be a valuable asset when implementing a client’s new systems management strategy.
As medical technology advances, more appointments and procedures that would traditionally be done in a hospital setting will be able to safely be administered in a practitioner’s office. As the industry shifts, healthcare management consultants will be needed to make sure regulations are met and healthcare organizations have the knowledge and training to stay on the right track.