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Careers for physicians in healthcare administration

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As healthcare institutions continue to grow and the landscape of medicine continues to evolve, there is an increasing need for physician leaders in healthcare administration. Physicians have the insight of working within the system and know the unique challenges that clinicians face in providing care to their patients. Physicians are stepping into these roles in an effort to help solve some of the challenges facing organizations within the US healthcare system.

Those who consider themselves thought leaders, with ideas of how they could improve their institution, may thrive as physician administrators. There is the benefit of physician leaders in healthcare administration being viewed as peers, forming a sense of trust between leadership and clinical colleagues.


Chief Medical Officer

Chief Quality Officer

Physician Advisor

Example Duties

▪ Oversee clinical departments and offer guidance and support

▪ Ensure accreditation of facilities and staff members

▪ Develop a culture of continuous improvement

▪ Strengthen data and information collection to better understand patient care and improve quality

▪ Liaise between physicians and administration

▪ Improve documentation of hospital charges

▪ Improving physician workflow and efficiency

Example Employers

▪ Hospital or other healthcare system

▪ Government health organization

▪ Hospital or other healthcare system

▪ Government health organization

▪ Large healthcare systems (position gaining popularity)

Job Responsibilities

Positions in healthcare administration can include chief medical officers, chief innovation officers, safety officers, operations officers, strategy officers, or CEOs of health institutions, among other positions. Job responsibilities will vary depending on the specific role; however, most of these roles will need to collaborate with each other and with the heads of clinical departments to achieve the overall business and clinical goals of the institution.

Various job responsibilities may include:

  • Liaising between physicians and administration
  • Improving documentation of hospital charges in coordination with physicians to reduce insurance denials and mitigate risk
  • Ensuring physicians adhere to safety and quality regulations
  • Monitoring admission rates
  • Improving care through physician education, hospital programming, or other support programs
  • Supervising and credentialing physicians
  • Implementing cost-effective healthcare
  • Strategizing methods to improve workflow
  • Optimizing value and quality of care provided
  • Fostering alliance and connections within the local community
  • Overseeing clinical departments and offering guidance and support
  • Managing the delicate balance between business and clinical priorities
  • Leading the institution in adopting new innovative healthcare models or technologies
  • Ensuring accreditation of facilities and staff members
  • Developing a culture of continuous improvement
  • Strengthening data and information collection abilities to better understand patient care and improve quality

Work Environment and Schedule

The work environment for healthcare administrators can be stressful. Many healthcare administrators serve on the executive boards of large hospital systems. Their day may consist of meetings with important influencers or parties in the hospital in an effort to implement new policies that address problems the hospital system may be facing. They need to be receptive to feedback from clinical departments and work to develop solutions that balance patient care and financial revenue.

Not every decision made by healthcare administrators is supported by all staff members but, ultimately, administrators have to do what they feel is in the best interest of the institution and the patients it serves. Physicians who transition into healthcare administration are often in a unique position to gain the respect of their clinician peers. Peers within the institution may now feel they have someone with clinical experience ‘on their side’ to advocate for them on the business side. Others may feel that their colleague has left them behind in the dust, believing that healthcare administrative matters became more important than clinical care. It takes a certain finesse to walk the line between clinical medicine and the business of medicine.

There is the potential for travel to national conferences to both network with other healthcare administrators and to learn about new technologies or methods that may be successfully implemented in their health system. Overall, the work schedule of healthcare administrators tends to adhere to a typical Monday through Friday work schedule, though it is not uncommon to work lengthy days or have meetings and tasks that make for long working hours.

Required Skills and Training

Degrees in healthcare administration or management may assist early career physicians in working their way into administrative roles, without taking the track that many before them have taken of serving on hospital committees over many years before earning a spot in prestigious positions. Those that are in clinical oversight positions are generally expected to have served in a prominent clinical role within an institution prior to moving into management.

Required skills include:

  • Knowledge of healthcare administration, or a degree in healthcare administration or management
  • Excellent communication skills including writing and presentation skills
  • Conflict management and problem-solving skills
  • Serving on hospital committees may help secure an administrative position
  • Maintaining a professional and well-respected reputation

Residency, Licensure, and Training Requirements

Board certification and licensure are not necessarily required for all positions in healthcare administration, though they may be for some positions.

Is This a Career for You?

Many physicians find that the transition to positions in healthcare administration come naturally to them, while others find that navigating hospital politics and being placed in positions of leadership make them uncomfortable. Healthcare administration is a great way for a physician to advance their career, move out of a purely clinical role, implement changes across their institution, and often make more money than they did as a clinical physician. A career in healthcare administration is great for physicians who are innovative, can confidently lead and “shake things up,” and rally others around them.

Physicians who prefer routine, do not want to disrupt the status quo, or those who lack communication finesse and business management skills necessary may find healthcare administration positions difficult to thrive in. Navigating healthcare administration as a physician can be frustrating at times and requires persistence, confidence, communication, and dedication. However, for those that wish to affect the lives of patients or providers by implementing institutional changes, healthcare administration can be a rewarding career.

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