Hospital management is to healthcare management as pediatricians are to physicians; the former conduct specialized duties within a broader field. However, just as physicians may elect to practice general medicine, healthcare managers, already experts in sophisticated and interdisciplinary subject matter, need not refine their professional identities any further. Moreover, the decision to specialize should always be made with care, as the differences between healthcare and hospital management are significant and readily apparent in the personal characteristics best suited for each career.

Healthcare Management

Healthcare managers oversee business and operational aspects of a healthcare or medical facility, maintaining the financial integrity of the organization and supporting the industry’s economic infrastructure. They possess a deep understanding of the structural elements and administrative standards of the healthcare system. They are primarily business people and not typically medical practitioners.

Core competencies of healthcare management include: 

  • Design and analyze business, marketing and financial strategies and initiatives
  • Create, evaluate, communicate and revise business plans
  • Establish and enforce organizational policies and procedures
  • Collect, analyze and interpret financial data
  • Assess financial risk and manage assets
  • Recruit, interview and train facility staff members
  • Oversee facility staff to insure quality patient care
  • De-escalate conflict and mediate negotiations among care providers
  • Liaise with physicians and other executives to enhance profits and productivity
  • Engage in public relations and communicate with stakeholders

Despite their numerous responsibilities, healthcare managers usually retain an executive distance, situated in offices and less visible to patients than care providers. 

Hospital Management

For the most part, the healthcare management duties described above also apply to hospital management; it’s the environment in which those duties are performed that distinguishes the specialty.

Hospital managers must not only insure the same standards of quality care that govern all industry facilities, they must do so while navigating a highly unpredictable environment. Hospitals often accommodate various medical disciplines, particularly those in densely populated urban or suburban areas, employing numerous providers who require complex and expensive technology to perform intricate diagnostic, practical or surgical procedures. Without strong leadership and active managerial oversight, patient care can easily devolve into disorder. All healthcare managers must be decisive, able to problem-solve quickly and under duress, and must have superlative decision-making skills which are indispensable to hospital management.

Likewise, hospital managers must engage with frontline practitioners and remain visible throughout their organizations, while healthcare managers may focus more exclusively on administration and business. Hospital managers may draw more extensively on the interpersonal intelligence, leadership training and strong communication skills necessary to manage a healthcare facility than their general counterparts. Healthcare managers might rely more on their knowledge and experience of quantitative and critical analytics.

Choosing the Right Career

Despite their differences, hospital and healthcare management share interdisciplinary knowledge areas and demand many of the same skills and training, which is by far the best way to master their definitions, multifaceted both in theory and practice. The above material merely outlines a nuanced professional landscape.

Those considering a career as healthcare managers and current business professionals interested in augmenting their value might consider an MBA degree program that offers a healthcare management concentration. Completing coursework in healthcare policy and standards, business and financial theory, and statistical analytics, among many other topics, confers a deep understanding of what the two professions entail and empowers graduates to make the best possible decisions. Either way, graduates will  be positioned to begin valued, lucrative and meaningful careers.

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