Modern healthcare systems face challenges that can impact outcomes for patients and healthcare organizations. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted and exacerbated issues underlying these challenges.
Healthcare administrators responsible for addressing these issues require a knowledge of healthcare systems, societal issues, finance, information technology (IT) and organizational management.
Study of these topics is central to the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Healthcare Administration program from the University of Southern Indiana (USI). Through these studies, healthcare administrators can develop the expertise and skills needed to tackle challenges, such as the five listed below:
1. Increasing Shortages in Healthcare Workers
Staff shortages in healthcare systems have become more acute during the pandemic. Like nurses, most front-line healthcare workers face high rates of burnout due to long hours, stressful work environments and compassion fatigue. These factors could hasten the exodus of healthcare workers, making staff shortages worse.
Aggressive recruiting practices and temporary measures like hiring travel nurses can help fill staffing gaps. Still, such steps do little to lessen worker burnout and improve staff retention, both necessary for a long-term solution to the problem.
Healthcare administrators educated in leadership and business management understand that an organization’s staff is its most important resource. Healthcare leaders should prioritize meeting employee needs, supporting their well-being and actively promoting self-care. Taking these measures can improve long-term staff retention and reduce levels of burnout.
2. Rising Costs for Healthcare Organizations and Patients
Healthcare costs in the U.S. are among the highest in the world. Quality medical care is beyond reach for many Americans, with healthcare administrators struggling to meet their budgets.
Keeping healthcare costs in check requires advanced knowledge of managerial economics, finance and continuous improvement methodologies like Lean Six Sigma. USI’s courses on these subjects help students discover ways to improve service quality and lower costs using statistical tools. Further study in business analytics helps administrators optimize operations and maximize cost efficiency. Telemedicine and generic drug prescriptions can lower costs for both organizations and patients.
3. Navigating Insurance, Government Healthcare Programs and Regulations
Healthcare administrators must constantly adapt their organization’s practices and policies to ongoing changes in healthcare regulations, insurance and government programs.
For instance, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) instituted the Hospital Price Transparency rule in the beginning of 2021. The CMS recently proposed further actions in accordance with the federal government’s executive order promoting competition in the economy. These actions seek to help Americans make informed choices about their healthcare, bring down costs through increased competition and improve equity and access to care.
Complying with changing regulations calls for effort from organizations. Making such efforts and planning for changes can help healthcare administrators navigate future transitions. The benefits might include lower pharmaceutical and insurance costs, as well as improved consumer trust and loyalty.
4. IT, Data Privacy and Cybersecurity
Information technology (IT) systems are essential for the modern management of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Electronic Health Records (EHR). Information management systems can help organizations improve efficiency, data-driven decision making and revenue growth.
Yet, such systems are expensive and require substantial staff training. Systems with poor security are vulnerable to cyberattacks, which could expose patient data and violate patient privacy. Being prepared helps healthcare organizations avoid costly regulatory penalties.
Health administrators must therefore guide technology integration with risk mitigation in mind. Safeguards include investing in secure IT platforms and IT and cybersecurity management staff, or contracting with consultants and reputable firms. Cloud-based solutions like data co-location help organizations prepare for disasters, breaches or ransomware attacks.
5. Health Equity
Inequity has long plagued the U.S. healthcare system, and minority populations have historically had uneven access to quality, affordable healthcare. Plus, many rural hospitals have shut down or been consolidated, leaving those areas with less access to care. While government efforts play a part in health equity, healthcare organizations bear a great deal of responsibility for enacting change.
Healthcare administrators can take steps to improve equity. Employers should address and remove bias from hiring practices to build a diverse, inclusive workforce that represents the community it serves. Local public health agencies and community organizations can partner to improve outreach and health education initiatives as well as access to remote services and affordable care.
Improving health equity can increase preventive care practices and lower costs associated with chronic, untreated illness and preventable emergency care. Improving efficiencies with technology and business analytics can lower operational and patient costs. Administrators who make these connections and lead change accordingly will play an important role in addressing the healthcare challenges of today.