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Top career skills for health care administrators

Doctors and nurses may be the first people who come to mind when you think about the health care industry. But as aging baby boomers, returning veterans with long-term needs, and patients with chronic illnesses put increasing demands on the medical system, hospitals and health care services are hiring more administrators.

In fact, the need for managers to run daily business operations is expected to jump 22 percent between 2010 and 2020. Beth Patton, associate dean of the University of Phoenix College of Natural Sciences, outlines five key areas you’ll want to be skilled in for a career in health care administration:


Economics

Comprehending the “big picture” of health care’s complex financial components is a key element, Patton says, including revenue generation and its effect on operating expenses while maintaining a focus on quality care.

Technology

Technology

Under the Affordable Care Act, all U.S. medical providers must convert to electronic health records by 2014. As a health administrator, Patton says, you’ll have to stay up-to-date on the transition of patient records “using this dynamic and evolving technology.”

In addition, she says, you’ll need to understand the various technologies your patients use to track their health. These can include mobile apps, such as the ones for diabetics to keep tabs on their blood sugar levels, and video-conferencing software that connects housebound patients to your facility’s physicians.


Communication

It will be your responsibility to keep current on the effects the latest changes in health insurance, government policies and patient care standards will have on your staff and consumers of your services, and how they relate to your company’s policies and protocols. Communicating those effects “is a key component of health care delivery today,” Patton says.

You’ll also need to write reports and memos, make presentations to employees and the community, and talk regularly with other managers to stay on top of issues that arise.


Risk management

Whether dealing with patient or staff injuries, facility violence or emergency disaster plans, you’ll need to help control your operation’s financial and safety risks. Doing so includes ensuring proper compliance and reporting to federal agencies, learning and upholding policies and procedures, and effectively training staff to recognize and mitigate potential insurance and malpractice risks.


Strategic thinking

The most important part of your job will be to ensure you meet the needs of your facility and community, Patton says. This will require evaluating demographics and emerging health issues, as well as determining how best to provide the services and care needed to support your findings.

For instance, you might decide that you could meet a community need and generate revenue by establishing a mobile vaccination clinic. According to Patton, this is the right combination of business acumen and community service. “Make your community healthy — that is a business strategy.”