Patient services managers contribute greatly to the efficiency and quality of patient care. These licensed professionals may be known by several different names such as healthcare access coordinators, patient accounting managers, patient services representatives, or patient care directors. Regardless of the title, these professionals serve healthcare programs and patients by evaluating and ensuring that medical practices affecting patient care are enacted according to state and federal regulations. Additionally, as some of the first healthcare team members to interact with patients and families, they leave lasting impressions about the type of care patients can expect to receive. In the course of their jobs, patient care managers may:
- Manage paperwork for admission and release.
- Disseminate information about billing, insurance, privacy and patient rights.
- Act as a liaison between patient, family and healthcare staff.
- Implement staff training and scheduling.
- Coordinate the timing of meal deliveries, personal hygiene care, diagnostic procedures or therapeutic treatments.
Average salaries for patient services managers vary depending upon degree qualifications, position level, relevant work experience, geographical location and employment setting. As of August 2014, salaries ranged from $51,354 up to $95,074 nationwide.
For entry positions, usually as a patient services representative, beginning salaries range between $21,936 and $39,017 across the country.
Key Responsibilities for Patient Care Managers
Job responsibilities for patient care employees coincide with training and position levels. For example, a patient care representative working under supervision may be the first contact to explain critical procedural and legal information to incoming patients and their families. Additionally, patient care personnel will use a variety of software programs to complete data entry tasks associated with a patient's admission, treatment and release. By comparison, responsibilities in advanced level positions require use of increased managerial skills to oversee staff and resources, train and hire personnel, document and report program progress to administrators, and ensure that all policies and regulations are enacted correctly.
Necessary Skills for Patient Services Personnel
Qualified patient services managers need to possess a diversified set of interpersonal and technical competencies to complete the daily tasks associated with their jobs. Employers seek those who demonstrate:
- Effective leadership to manage people and resources.
- Excellent verbal and written communication.
- Critical thinking skills that result in effective problem solving.
- Innovative solutions to identified areas needing improvement.
- Detail-oriented work habits and strong organizational behaviors.
- Proficiency with current technology and software applications.
- Flexibility to meet the fast pace and demands of working with many different types of people and situations.
Degree and Education Requirements
The majority of entry level jobs in this field requires at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited university program. These undergraduate programs prepare future professionals with the fundamental medical, managerial and technological foundations to begin working in the patient care management field. Students often earn a bachelor's in nursing with management concentrations or a health information management degree through a school's science or business departments. For higher level patient care management positions, employers often desire candidates with an advanced degree and some on-the-job experience. Those going back for a master's degree to advance within the patient care management system often complete graduate degrees in the fields of nursing, business administration or organizational management. Master's programs focus on advanced studies covering: health care policies, ethics, professional and strategic leadership, social and legal responsibilities, financial management, administrative practices and information management.
Rewards and Challenges of the Job
Adaptable individuals who enjoy helping others will find being a patient services manager provides meaningful work through a sustainable career that contributes to the well-being of the community at large. Pay and benefits are commensurate with other healthcare industry jobs with the same degree requirements. Opportunities for career advancement also exist through gaining on-the-job experience or further educational training. Challenges associated with this type of work most frequently relate to the stressful nature of dealing with fast-paced environments and constantly changing circumstances. Job demands may sometimes require staying late to facilitate patient care, which may affect personal obligations. Finally, this job may also be emotionally draining. As a result, patient services managers must be mindful to not neglect their own needs while caring for others.
Steps for Becoming a Patient Services Manager
Prior to enrolling in coursework towards becoming a patient services manager, potential candidates for this career might consider talking with career counselors or current professionals in the field to better understand the skills sets and temperament best suited for the job's demands. Volunteering or shadowing at local hospitals, clinics or on emergency response teams can also be helpful to get a feel for the pacing and conditions that surround working within a medical environment. For college students with undeclared majors, peers currently enrolled in health management programs can give valuable insight into program requirements and the nature of the work. If you are already a health professional, ask employers what degrees they prefer for patient services managers to hold and if tuition assistance is provided through continuing education programs. Finally, investigate how long a degree will take to complete and whether programs are flexible for working professionals to complete classes online or during non-work hours.
Future Outlook for the Profession
Due to the anticipated continued growth of the medical industry as a whole, management positions for medical health management services of all types are expected to increase by 23% through 2012. This means that jobs for patient services managers will remain competitive and candidates with the right degree qualifications will have better employment and career advancement success. Patient services managers will be employable in many different medical and related health settings, including: hospitals, community clinics, government health agencies, insurance companies, nursing homes, senior centers, rehabilitation or drug treatment centers, correctional institutions, ambulatory services, outpatient or emergency treatment programs, rural public health bureaus, non-profit groups and disaster relief organizations.
There is no better feeling than knowing that your career can change lives. Patient services managers play key roles in ensuring that patients receive the highest quality care and ethical treatment as they progress through the healthcare system. For individuals who wish to make a difference, becoming a patient services manager is a career worth considering.