The environment of healthcare changes rapidly and continuously. It is an environment loaded with government regulations, massive rules, and complex structures. Healthcare encompasses many areas including acute care / hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, long-term care facilities, physicians offices, home health agencies, and managed care organizations. The most noteworthy of these are hospitals or acute care centers. Hospitals have become large, complex organizations. Technology has advanced at an almost unbelievable rate.
The financing of healthcare has moved from self-pay to a complicated third-party reimbursement system. The number of uninsured patients is steadily increasing. The struggle to remain profitable is daunting. And government has taken an increasingly larger role in healthcare delivery. Surprisingly, healthcare remains a stable, growing industry and health services will continue to be in demand for a long time to come. Our population is steadily aging and life expectancies are progressively increasing due to medical and technological advancements.
The need for healthcare executives is also increasing. Healthcare executives are skilled, trained professionals who care about the quality of care patients receive. They team up with physicians, nurses, and other caregivers to provide patient care. Their ultimate goal is to help provide safe, comfortable and compassionate places for people to receive health services when needed. They also ensure that their organizations have strong medical, operational, and financial stability to serve the needs of patients, their families, and the communities.
These executives are concerned about the business and financial side of healthcare; but ultimately they are concerned about the health of people in the communities they serve and are often involved in helping to educate their community members and important health issues (Haddock, McLean, and Chapman, 2002, p. 51) Today’s healthcare executives face many challenges. Shortages in technical and highly specialized staff make efficiency Just out of reach and this shortage is increasing due to rapid industry growth and reduced numbers of new graduates.
Another distinct challenge faced by healthcare executives of hospitals and health systems is that a key group of stakeholders, the physicians, are often not directly employed by the organization they work for. Physicians are directly responsible for both cost and performance and yet, in most instances, are not actual employees of he health delivery system. This issue becomes even more complex at academic medical institutions, not for profit hospitals and health systems, and freestanding clinics. Employee burnout is staggering. Recruitment and retention of key employees is a daunting task.
Maintaining and growing market share is another area of concern. Cost containment has become more than a challenge; in a world were technology is ever changing and very costly, cost management takes enormous skill. Add to this the obligation to care for communities, often with little or no reimbursement for the revise provided, and a formula for potential financial disaster has been created. Even given all of these challenges, perhaps the biggest challenge facing healthcare executives is the constant change. More than any other industry, healthcare is perpetual change and healthcare executives must remain flexible to be successful.
The title healthcare executive is a rather broad category. There are four key areas of specialty for healthcare executives: financial and treasury functions, operational and administrative functions, information management and service functions, and managed care organizational functions. The two most crucial functions are finance and operations. Healthcare financial executives, such as Chief Financial Officers (Scoffs), are often responsible for managed care, internal financial systems and processes, cash and asset management, external financial issues related to contract management (purchasing), Joint ventures, and equity arrangements.
Healthcare operational executives, such as Chief Executive Officers (Coos) or Chief Operating Officers (COOS), are often responsible for short term and long range administrative and organizational plans, developing an annual administrative plan, reviewing and proving budgets, supervising various medical center department managers, directing the Coffs office and related financial report production, and acting as a liaison with the hospital / health system governing board.
Healthcare financial management is the category that is most interesting. Effective leaders should possess traditional management skills and interpersonal skills. They should be creative thinkers who can develop innovative solutions to problems. They also must be able to make decisions, establish and meet goals, incorporate change, and know how to make value-added contributions (Public, 2002, p. 1). Overall, a healthcare executive position can be rewarding and fulfilling, but it does have its challenges.