A lot of people struggle to understand the difference between healthcare management and healthcare administration. This is mainly because the terms are, in fact, used interchangeably, particularly by colleges and universities. In reality, however, there are some significant differences between the two degrees, and the corresponding occupations as well.
Where They Are the Same
There are several reasons as to why the two concentrations are used interchangeably, which are mainly due to their similarities. These include the fact that:
• The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) considers both positions to be part of “Medical and Health Services Managers”.
• Both healthcare managers and healthcare administrators work in private physician offices or hospitals.
• Both roles include administrative and managerial tasks, like record keeping, assigning work schedules, managing billing, and so on.
• Both are non-medical roles within a medical or healthcare environment.
One of the key reasons why the two roles are so hard to tell apart is because they rely heavily on each other. While healthcare managers place a focus on the operations of the facility they work for, the healthcare administrators actually deal with managing staff on a day to day basis. Without each other, neither could function properly. This is also why so many smaller facilities have combined the two roles.
However, that is where the similarities end. Let’s take a look at each of the elements in which there are various differences between the two roles. A simple definition that explains the difference between the two is that the healthcare manager runs an organization as a whole, whereas the healthcare administrator runs the staffing of the organization.
What They Learn
Healthcare managers actually complete a different form of education. Specifically, the healthcare manager holds a master’s degree, which is usually a master in business administration (MBA) with a healthcare management concentration. In contrast, a healthcare administrator may only need a bachelor’s degree. That said, it is becoming increasingly common for people to pursue a master’s degree in healthcare administration as well.
The exact qualification requirements will differ depending on the facility in which the manager or administrator is working. The larger the hospital, the more likely it will be that they will only accept graduate degree holders. However, if a healthcare administrator has completed a graduate degree, the focus will be much more on business matters.
What They Do
It is undeniable that there are similarities between the duties of the healthcare manager and the healthcare administrator. However, there are differences as well. The healthcare administrator:
• Oversees a medical facility’s staff
• Manages and supervises an entire facility, or a specific department, depending on the size of the healthcare organization
• Takes on responsibility for the financial and staffing aspects of the facility
• Ensures that a healthcare facility can run properly, while implementing the almost daily changes in healthcare regulations and frequent cutbacks
• Has a deep understanding of clinical practice
• Deals with health informatics, client experience, and patient care
• Organizes available resources
• Develops new healthcare policies
A healthcare manager, meanwhile, has a far wider role. This includes:
• Dealing with daily operations, including general business concerns, organizational issues, patient care, and budgeting
• Working directly with the board of the healthcare facility in order to develop new strategic structures
• Creating plans of action in times of crisis
• Performing human resource management roles in smaller facilities
• Seeing the facility as a business
• Balancing competitive pressure, financial responsibilities, facilities management, and human resources.
• Being responsible for the performance of the healthcare facility.
There is also a significant difference between the job scope of the healthcare administrator and the healthcare manager. As such, the latter is concerned with:
• Facilities management
It is quite common for healthcare managers to take on a subspecialization in areas such as accounting. Their role is to ensure that the facility operates efficiently as a whole. They do not, however, become involved in managing staff.
The healthcare administrator, on the other hand, is concerned with managing staff. In order to be able to do this efficiently, they must understand the specific type of treatment or research their facility offers. They have a far strong focus on actual healthcare, in other words.
Both the healthcare administrator and the healthcare manager are management level professionals. This is why, if they have both completed a graduate degree, they will both learn about good management practices. However, healthcare administrators focus on leadership skills, because they work directly with staff. Healthcare managers, however, are more involved in overall staff management policies, procedures, and regulations.
The reason why the managerial styles are different, is because the healthcare manager deals with a facility as a business, whereas the healthcare administrator deals with the people within that facility. Healthcare management is far broader, whereas healthcare administration looks at details.
If you are considering a career in either of the two specializations, it is important that you learn to understand their similarities and differences. Whichever career you choose, you will usually have to work full time. Additionally, depending on your facility, you may also have to work shifts or unsociable hours. Both require you to have the skill of being attentive to details and to have excellent communication and organizational skills. For many, grasping the key aspect that sets healthcare administration apart from management, is by comparing them to sales and marketing. Both sales and marketing are vital processes to enable a company to earn money, but they take different approaches to reach this shared goal.
The sales department is the area that deals directly with customers. The marketing department, meanwhile, is trying to attract more customers into the organization, using a variety of different means. Marketing focuses on statistics and demographics. Sales, by contrast, focuses on individuals. You need to think, therefore, of where your personal passion and interest lies. Either way, you will make a tremendous difference to the overall efficiency and operations of the healthcare system as a whole and outcomes for patients across the board.
- Healthcare Management vs. Healthcare Administration. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.floridatechonline.com/blog/healthcare-management/healthcare-management-vs-healthcare-administration/
- The Difference Between Healthcare Management & Healthcare Administration. (2014, Jan. 24) Retrieved from http://www.fnu.edu/difference-healthcare-management-healthcare-administration/
- Occupational Outlook Handbook – Medical and Health Services Managers. (2015, Dec. 17) Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Management/Medical-and-health-services-managers.htm