The role of a health care consultant is a hybrid position of medicine and business. Today's health care companies must operate in a fiscally responsible manner that brings the best quality of care to all patients. A health care consultant develops strategies based upon standard business practices to create budget recommendations for a variety of companies including hospitals, insurance companies, and a wide variety of healthcare organizations.
A health care consultant must remain highly organized during the optimization process that will improve profitability and services of healthcare companies. During the consultation process, it will be necessary to meet with managers to discuss potential financial solutions and alternative practices that will increase the efficiency of the organization. The health care consultant may interview employees, as well as inspect the site where services are performed to analyze the equipment and methods used by those employees for completing their tasks. The health care consultant must bring together a variety of variables to finalize his or her recommendations.
General data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for Management Analysts suggests median pay of $78,600 a year, which equals $37.79 an hour. Education makes a difference in expected salary for a health care consultant. Those who choose to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) will earn more than graduates who halt education after receiving a bachelor's degree.
Further data from the BLS reveals an income spread that varies from $44,370 all the way to $142,580. Students who have just graduated will likely start out at the bottom of the scale near $44,730. An advanced or professional degree may help a student land a higher starting salary.
A health care consultant must be able to analyze a variety of environments with wildly different variables. The financial and business needs of a hospital may look quite different from those of a medical insurance company. Likewise, an office serving a single physician may require a different solution than an entire community health center. The health care consultant will travel to the location where care is given to observe how employees perform their jobs and the methods they use, as well as the equipment they use.
Further, the consultant will interview all personnel involved in care, as well as analyze many financial documents that will cover expenditures for employment, equipment, overhead, and administration costs. At the end of the investigation, the health care consultant will make recommendations for alternative practices that will bring greater efficiency to the organization. Recommendations may include new procedures, organizational updates, and different equipment. After the recommendations are made, a consultant may remain with the organization to ensure proper implementation of those suggestions.
Successful health care consultants must be able to appeal to potential employers since they often work as self-employed individuals. Work may occur in groups with a consulting team, or a consultant may work on his or her own to develop solutions, so being able to work with or without other people is important.
In addition, health care consultants must be detail oriented, organized, and able to make recommendations based upon a significant amount of data. Another important skill is diplomacy. Sometimes, a consultant must make difficult recommendations that will personally impact members of an organization. The consultant must not shy away from making recommendations that will improve the company even if those decisions will make things challenging for the organization's employees.
Degree and Education Requirements
A bachelor's degree is the minimum education a health care consultant will need to enter the industry; however, an advanced degree in business or healthcare is highly recommended. With a bachelor's degree, a health care consultant may find work as an assistant or as part of a team. An advanced degree will likely help the graduate land jobs with more responsibilities and higher pay.
Bachelor's degrees that may prove useful include those in business, nursing, and public health. Advanced degrees a student should consider will include a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. A medical degree with further training in business is the best way to approach the profession with sufficient training and knowledge. Health care consultants need to prove significant knowledge of the inner-workings of the average health care facility, as well as in-depth knowledge of standard business practices.
Rewards and Challenges of Health Care Consultants
Health care consultants must be excellent problem-solvers, so anyone who enjoys developing solutions for complex problems will thrive in the profession. Each health care facility requires a different approach, and not all solutions will be the same. For anyone who wouldn't find doing the same thing over and over each day a challenge, the dynamic and ever-changing environment of the average health care consultant will mean never having to deal with boredom or repetition.
On that same front, however, one of the biggest challenges of the health care consultant is switching assignments periodically. Anyone who doesn't like change and making new acquaintances may find the position fairly challenging. In addition, anyone who doesn't have a thick skin and who can't make tough decisions that will impact other people's lives may find the daily responsibilities of a health care consultant fairly challenging.
A diverse and extensive education is one of the best tools a health care consultant has in landing a contract. For high school students interested in becoming a health care consultant, taking math and science courses in high school is important. Business and health courses will also help prepare the student for earning a degree and moving on to advanced study. During school, internships, fellowships, or work inside healthcare facilities will help a new graduate enhance his or her resume.
Upon graduation, students must pursue membership with the National Society of Certified Healthcare Business Consultants (NSCHBC). Investigating certification with the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) is also an essential step in rounding out a resume.
Ancillary skills that may prove helpful in the profession include mastering most standard computer programs, as well as familiarity with healthcare information technology like electronic records and popular types of software used for medical budgeting, billing, and administration. During a career, a student should also pursue continuing professional education to keep abreast of current developments in the industry.
The combination of a swiftly growing health care industry alongside the increasing cost of providing health care has created strong demand for talented management analysts with skills in health care. The job outlook according to the BLS suggests that the profession will grow by 19% from 2012 to 2022. This represents swift growth when compared to the average for all professions, which is estimated at 11%. Over the next decade, over 130,00 jobs for management analysts will be added to the economy in the United States.
Some of the types of businesses hiring health care consultants include hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, and independent health care organizations. Some of the job titles a health care consultant may seek, include Senior Consultant, Project Manager, Outcomes Consultant, and Healthcare Quality Improvement Consultant. Virtually every facet of medicine today requires the assistance of health care consultants, so a graduate has many options available for employment.
The opportunity to work as a health care consultant represents employment that's never boring or repetitive. With solid employment prospects, and the continuing need for talented consultants in the future, students who choose to tackle this challenging profession will find the career monetarily and emotionally rewarding.
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