It can be easy to mix up the terms “healthcare management” and “healthcare administration” because they look like they mean the same thing. The more prestigious educational facilities in the country do not help when they start using the two phrases interchangeably. While the confusion between the two practices is understandable, that does not change the fact that these are two very different aspects of the healthcare industry.
The difference between administration and management is much like the difference between sales and marketing. Both sales and marketing are used to generate revenue for a company, but they accomplish that task in two different ways. Sales is the face of a company that has the face to face contact with clients and marketing attempts to expand the corporate client base through advertising and other physical means. Marketing is also much more interested in demographics than sales would be, where sales would be much more interested in revenue numbers than marketing.
The general difference between healthcare administration and healthcare management is that management runs the healthcare organization and administration handles the staffing. But within those two general areas are several sub-areas of concern that require years of intense education and experience to get right.
Healthcare administration gets confusing because the people who run larger healthcare facilities are often referred to as administrators. These kinds of confusions make it extremely important that a professional understands the differences between management and administration before getting too deeply into their career. You may find that you have chosen the wrong side and may have to restart your career to get it right.
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When you get involved in healthcare management, you become concerned with disciplines such as policy, accounting and facilities management. In order to be competitive in their field, a healthcare manager may choose to become specialized in accounting along with healthcare to help develop the skills she needs to address the concerns of her position. The healthcare manager is concerned with the overall operation of the facility or network and leaves the day to day management of staff to the administrator.
An effective healthcare administrator becomes familiar with the kind of medical research or treatment her facility will be offering in order to understand the staffing demands of her patients and company. She spends time studying the methods used within her particular part of healthcare so that she can understand the best ways to utilize the staff and talent on hand.
A big difference between a healthcare manager and a healthcare administrator is that most healthcare organizations require their managers to have an educational background which is specific to healthcare management. There are schools all over the country which offer these very specialized kinds of curriculums and they can take anywhere from two to four years to complete.
A professional who wants to study to be in healthcare administration can get an MHA degree from an accredited university, or she can choose to get an MBA that has a concentration in healthcare. Depending on what kind of administration the person chooses to get involved with, the option of getting an MBA with a healthcare focus would probably be the better choice.
When it comes to leadership skills and the need for good management practices, both a manager and an administrator would benefit from these. But the administrator would be better served by becoming familiar with staff management procedures, while the administrator needs to become adept at leadership skills.
The entire concept of separating healthcare administrator from healthcare manager can be confusing. In many smaller healthcare organizations, the two roles are merged together to help save on costs. But when you decide to get into the healthcare industry, you need to have a comprehensive understanding of each field before you choose the one you will specialize in. Healthcare management deals with the big business picture of a health organization, while the administrator runs departments and is concerned with staff scheduling and departmental budgets. Until you take the time to analyze both carefully, the confusion between the two can become frustrating.
The best approach to take when trying to determine your career path is to spend time with an educational counselor, or try to talk to people who are already in the industry. Anyone with practical career experience will be able to give you the advice you need to make the right decision.