What is health services administration?

Healthcare has changed a lot in the 21st century — and that change is nowhere near ending. Every year brings new regulations and policies, new scientific discoveries, new technology, and (as COVID-19 made all too clear) new challenges for healthcare organizations and care providers.

All of this change provides opportunities for people like you to make a difference in healthcare through health services administration.

Maybe you’ve worked on the clinical side for a few years and you’ve seen how poor management and personnel shortages can be detrimental to patient outcomes. Maybe you’re coming from the business world and want to use those skills to help healthcare organizations run more efficiently.

Whatever your experience, if you want to impact healthcare systems and patients’ lives, health services administration (HSA) could be the most effective way to make that impact.

Here’s what you need to know about HSA, job prospects in this field, and the best way to start your HSA career.

What Exactly Is Health Services Administration?

Behind every hospital, clinic, and doctor’s office is an administrative team that keeps the organization running smoothly. Health services administrators handle the business aspects of healthcare — everything from finance, technology, and informatics to operations, quality control, and patient experience. Depending on the organization, an individual health services administrator may be concerned with one or all of those areas.

services administration jobs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including:

  • C-suite roles like chief executive officer, chief finance officer or chief operating officer
  • Chief nursing officer
  • Medical director
  • Director of patient experience or inpatient medical services
  • Department administrator
  • Director of imaging
  • HR director
  • Chief culture officer
  • Chief quality officer
  • Policy and compliance specialist

HSA professionals need familiarity with both healthcare settings and business practices, as well as the various policies and regulations that govern healthcare organizations. For example, medical records management — which involves understanding both technology and patient privacy regulations — is a key responsibility for many health services administrators.

HSA professionals can be found behind the scenes at just about any healthcare setting:

  • Large medical centers
  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Healthcare technology companies
  • Clinical research labs
  • Doctor’s offices
  • Dental offices
  • Hospices

Health services administrators are concerned with the day-to-day operations of these facilities and may handle everything from budgets to staffing to compliance issues.

Job Outlook for HSA Professionals

Healthcare occupations are projected to add 2.6 million new jobs by 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s more than any other occupational group that the bureau tracks. For medical and health services managers, an estimated 51,800 job openings are projected for each year between 2020 and 2030, with an overall growth of 32 percent in the total number of these positions.

“As the large baby-boom population ages and people remain active later in life, there should be increased demand for healthcare services,” BLS writes. “This means greater needs for physicians and other healthcare workers, medical procedures, and healthcare facilities, and therefore greater needs for managers who organize and manage medical information and healthcare staff.”

Shifting healthcare regulations and the increased use of electronic health records are also expected to impact demand, so HSA professionals familiar with health information technology and informatics systems will be especially needed.

As of May 2021, the median pay for medical and health services managers was $101,340 per year, or $48.72 per hour.

How to Start Your HSA Career

Healthcare administrators often come from either a clinical background or the business world.

On the clinical side: Nurses or physicians may be promoted into managerial roles — or they may decide to change career tracks – either way, clinical experience is helpful for HSA professionals. It provides an insider’s perspective on what does and doesn’t work in healthcare, as well as an understanding of what clinicians’ work days look like and what patients and clinicians need. But former nurses or physicians may not have the business skills to effectively run a department, much less an entire practice.

On the business side: Business people bring finance and operations expertise from the traditional business world. They have a clear understanding of the bottom line and how, for example, organizational bureaucracy can make systems run slowly and inefficiently. But business people may not know the ins and outs of healthcare. They need a grounding in the ethics that govern healthcare practices, as well as the ways that regulations and patient privacy work in healthcare settings.

Whichever side you’re coming from, you likely need additional education to make sure you are prepared for whatever your current or eventual HSA role will throw at you. If you haven’t yet worked in health services administration, further education will help you gain the qualifications you need to succeed in your new career.

How a Master’s in Health Services Administration Can Equip You for Your New Career

HSA professionals need a broad understanding of business concepts and the ability to apply that understanding to healthcare organizations. A master’s in HSA makes sure you have both the theoretical and practical grounding you need to hit the ground running in your future administrative role — or move up in your current job.

The HSA master’s program at Regis is specifically designed for working professionals: Delivered online in asynchronous eight-week blocks, the program provides the flexibility you need to work your current job while preparing for your next role. It also connects you with other working professionals (your fellow students!) whose diverse backgrounds enrich your educational experience.

“We have students in our graduate program from every discipline you can think of,” says Tristen Amador, professor of Health Services Education at Regis. “In addition to nurses, we have physicians, we have dieticians, we have social workers, we have physical therapists. Every health discipline you could imagine, we have a student or we’ve had a student … and the same thing on the business side.”

Those backgrounds add depth to what you’re learning in class. If you’re coming from a business background, you’ll gain insight from your classmates with clinical experience, and vice versa.

Every course includes hands-on projects, so you’ll put what you’re learning into action. Regis has relationships with healthcare organizations, which allow students to perform real-world projects, like feasibility studies or other types of analysis, acting as consultants and interacting with high-level administrators.

“A lot of administrators have to be knowledgeable in quite a few [business] areas,” Amador said. “And, they often have quite a few people that report to them as well. So, they need to have this leadership and organizational development knowledge base to be able to successfully manage others and work with others.”

At Regis, those aspirational skills become reality. A master’s in health services administration is like an MBA for healthcare. Through our program, you’ll gain the business expertise and professional know-how you need to thrive in the world of health services administration. You’ll learn how all the pieces fit together — finance, operations, quality, patient experience, etc. — and develop the skills to help organizations run well while providing patients with the best quality care.

Ready to start your HSA career? Regis can help.

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