5 health administration jobs that may surprise you
You’ve got a degree in health administration — or you’re working toward one. What’s next? Sure, you’ve got the skills to work in a hospital — and many health administrators choose to do so — but your knowledge of regulatory issues, insurance reimbursement and business strategy could also be put to good use outside of a clinical setting.
“There are many jobs that do not involve direct patient care,” says Vincent Roux, MBA, area chair of the health administration program for the College of Health Sciences and Nursing at the University of Phoenix Oregon Campus.
Here, Roux, an industry consultant with 25 years of experience, offers five fields to consider, whether you’re fresh out of college or transitioning from a hospital environment:
Software development and IT
If you have experience in project management along with health care administration, consider working at a software development company. “Creating electronic health record software requires coordinating with people like programmers, trainers, desktop support personnel and vendors,” Roux says.
You may not have to learn programming languages, but you will have to ensure that the finished software uses accurate medical terminology.
“One of the primary duties of the chief compliance officer is to ensure that insurance companies and care centers [meet] federal, state and local regulations,” Roux says. Insurance companies, for example, must verify that they’re following the rules for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.
While this field can be accessible to both newcomers and those with experience, Roux stresses that working in compliance requires a strong eye for detail. “Individuals in this area should have very good research and documentation skills,” he adds.
Put your critical-thinking skills to use as lead negotiator or contract analyst for a pharmaceutical company or health insurance provider. As part of your job, Roux notes, “you might help a family care practice determine how much money the government will reimburse from Medicare or set the fee schedule that [an insurance company] will cover for prescription drugs.”
A background in health administration, he adds, may help you be more effective in negotiating, because you’ll understand trends in the patient population and the economics of treatment and reimbursement.
Insurance carriers, Roux says, tend to have large shops just for processing payments on claims submitted by health care providers — and they can use your knowledge of accounting and economics. “They’re always on the lookout for staff that have ideas that can make processing more efficient and increase revenue,” he says.
In addition, the health insurance industry gives you the chance to flex your creative muscles or crunch numbers. “Health administrators can write call scripts for customer service representatives or use a background in finance to conduct a fiscal audit,” Roux notes.
Many services that you might think the government provides actually are handled by the private sector, and it’s no different for health care. For example, at the state level, Roux says, “you might be working on the board that oversees the health care benefits for state employees and decides which insurance companies and hospitals public employees will use.”
State governments don’t provide treatment for injured workers, either. “If you work for the agency that does workers’ compensation,” he says, “you have to pull together physicians’ groups and insurance carriers to ensure they’re not violating reimbursement laws.”
And, Roux notes, as people who either couldn’t afford care or were denied it because of preexisting conditions become insured through the federal Affordable Care Act, health administrators “will have to work hand in hand with the private sector” to be certain that insurance companies can handle a large number of new enrollees and that hospitals have enough staff to handle all the patients.