Online Programs

Webinar: Deciding Between a Master’s in Healthcare Management & Healthcare Administration

By Eric Oestmann, PhD, MS, PT

In a recent webinar, MS in Healthcare Management program director, Dr. Eric Oestmann, breaks down the differences and benefits of roles in healthcare management and healthcare administration.

The following is a partial transcript of the archived presentation, which can be viewed in full here.

Online Master’s in Healthcare Management Mission

DR. OESTMANN: Hi, everyone. Thank you for being here. I appreciate everyone's attendance and interest in learning a little bit more about the differences between healthcare management and healthcare administration.

We want to start by articulating our mission statement specific to the Master's Degree in Healthcare Management at American University. And that is to:

“…develop an elite group of change agents for healthcare management, policy, and consulting.”

This mission statement was adopted and approved by our esteemed 11-member advisory board just in the last couple of months.

Healthcare Management Courses

Specific to the healthcare management core courses — each course will also contain at least one specialized project that everyone can use for a professional portfolio to launch their career or advance it. These are based on practical skill applications. We refer to these as competencies in healthcare management, and examples of your best academic work, but also demonstrating more than just knowledge, certainly demonstrating know-how and competency skill-based abilities.

Some of the professional skills that we focus on include our emerging technology trends in our cultural communications, professional ethics and project leadership, client communications, professional consulting, evaluation sciences, and project cost-benefit analysis.

We do have a team of esteemed faculty teaching the curriculum I’d like to make mention of— Dr. Jack Nemecek, a former public health director for the Centers of Disease Control; Nurse Practitioner Peggy Bird, and health information director at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles; and Dr. John Thompson, a former assistant director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also a former DC mayoral adviser in healthcare. So we have a really fine group of faculty developing and teaching our healthcare management courses.

I'd like to follow up with information regarding our program's content focus, and certainly, three areas of healthcare management and administration deficiency that is well-documented. And it's not new. And this research has been documented for the better part of 20 plus years. We continue to see major deficiencies in data analytic abilities and skills, in communication skills and presentation abilities, as well as informed decision-making skills. And I think that's really the hallmark of these deficiencies.

The combination of those three are certainly threaded throughout our curriculum. Each course has implemented those three skill-based competencies specifically. The reason being is we're talking about research that shows hundreds of billions of dollars in potential cost savings if we can just ameliorate those deficiencies.

Healthcare Master’s Degree Differences

We’ll now talk a little bit about degree and role differences between healthcare management and administration. The easiest way to outline this is that healthcare management really focuses on everything within the medical office organization from front office to back office. We would refer to this as knowledge and skills, soup to nuts, A-to-Z, versus healthcare administration, which is really more of a superficial knowledge-based, as opposed to skills-based, curriculum.

It's really designed for front office personnel, perhaps folks that would be classified as office coordinators, schedulers. They might do some light billing and coding for their organization or clinic. They might also be referred to as office assistants or office administrators, obviously.

Healthcare and medical are two terms that we use interchangeably. So healthcare management would also be akin to medical management. Same thing for healthcare administration — would also be akin to medical administration. Again, the main differences really are the depth and breadth of knowledge and skills.

So in healthcare management, we want you to be not just an inch deep and a mile wide. We want you to be a mile deep and a mile wide. We want the depth and breadth of knowledge and skill-based outcomes from this degree, versus healthcare administration, which really is a much more high-level degree in terms of information only-- much less emphasis and focus on skills, particularly those that I just referenced regarding communication, decision-making, and data analytic abilities.

Healthcare Management Career Outlook

There are plenty of job opportunities in healthcare management. I would mention and highlight some that are perhaps more in demand than others, those particularly related to long-term care, nursing home administrators or managers, continuing care community managers, and anything related to the care of the elderly, such as oncology, orthopedics, and internal medicine. We're seeing big growth and big demand for healthcare management positions.

Of course, two other unique areas that healthcare management degrees qualify folks for are in the realm of healthcare consulting, whether you are an internal consultant within a larger organization or an external consultant that is hired by a healthcare organization, as well as healthcare policy advisors. As I'm sure most of you are aware, or you should be by now, with our new presidential administration and the promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, certainly there is a need for savvy health care policy analysts and folks with a good knowledge of how healthcare tries to balance cost, quality, and access simultaneously.

Health Management Jobs

A little bit more on healthcare management jobs specifically — again, our degree prepares folks for mid and senior level healthcare management positions. Obviously, the difference here being experience. So I would say, someone with a bachelor's degree and significant experience, once they have attained and completed the master's degree in healthcare management at American University, they would certainly qualify for senior level positions, vice president of operations, for example.

Internal healthcare consulting and external healthcare consulting could be full-time employment. Or it could be consulting work, self-employment. Healthcare policy analysts, as I just mentioned, are in great demand, particularly now, and probably at least for the next two years, given the political nature and the balance of power that we have going on right now.

Healthcare advisors are needed in all areas. A couple other unique areas that you might make mention of — director of “fill in the blank” — director of rehabilitation services, director of MedSearch nursing, director of health information, and so on and so forth, would also represent and reflect a mid or senior level healthcare management position. Those positions typically require skills and competency-based knowledge beyond what most healthcare administration degrees provide.

Deciding Between Healthcare Management and Healthcare Administration

So which direction is right for prospective candidates, healthcare management or administration?

It depends on what your career goals are. If you are happy to be working front office duties, running scheduling, scheduling personnel, coordinating and/or performing some of the office billing and coding duties, then healthcare administration is certainly an acceptable and practical route to go.

However, if you want, again, more depth and breadth of knowledge, specifically skills that we've identified for at least the last two decades as significantly needed in healthcare, the ability to professionally communicate, both written and in presentation format, to perform data analytic skills, to make informed decision-making, to be able to aspire to those mid and senior level positions, then healthcare management really is the better choice for you. It will give you a significant greater number of options for you career-wise. It also opens up those doors in healthcare consulting and healthcare policy that perhaps would not be availed to those with healthcare administration degrees.

Additional Resources

Healthcare Management vs. Healthcare Administration

2017 Healthcare Management Webinar Series

Jobs in Healthcare Management: Working at a Healthcare Provider

Healthcare Management Salary and Career Projections

2017 Healthcare Trends

MS in Healthcare Management FAQ

To learn more about American University’s online Master of Science in Healthcare Management and your future career path, request more information or call us toll free at 855-725-7614.