How to Become a Healthcare Consultant

Healthcare is probably the most rapidly growing field in the US today, with 19% growth in jobs expected by 2024. With more than 2.3 million jobs expected to be added to the economy by that time, healthcare occupations are soaring in popularity.

One of those that is attracting a lot of attention today is that of healthcare consultant. Professionals who become health care consultants have a great interest in assisting healthcare organizations to run in an efficient and profitable manner. There also is a very high premium placed on maintaining and improving patient safety and patient care.

Healthcare Consultant Overview

A healthcare consultant is a specialized type of management consultant who proposes ways to improve the efficiency, profitability and care level of patients. They are experts in providing advice to healthcare executives and healthcare managers on how to make healthcare organizations – including doctors’ offices, hospitals, and nursing homes – more efficient and profitable. Specifically, a healthcare consultant does most or all of the following:

  • Improves efficiency and quality of healthcare service delivery
  • Develops new healthcare quality and efficiency goals for a department or facility
  • Ensure that the facility has staff who are up to date and fully compliant with new regulations and laws
  • Collect financial and other related data, such as revenues, expenditures, patient outcomes and more to determine what the problems in the organization are
  • Recommend new healthcare systems, procedures and/or changes in the organization to improve patient outcomes and efficiency
  • Present these recommendations to upper level and executive management at the healthcare organization
  • Follow up with facility managers and executives to ensure that the new systems are functioning well

Generally, healthcare consultants have to be highly organized as they work to optimize the healthcare organization to ensure that the profitability and services of the organization will be improved. During consultation, it may be needed to meet with managers to discuss possible solutions regarding finances. It may also be needed to interview employees and inspect the sites where healthcare services are performed.

Many healthcare consultants work for the healthcare organization that they are analyzing, but many of them also work for healthcare consulting companies. These types of healthcare consultants work on a contractual basis for various healthcare organizations that have operational challenges.

More About Healthcare Consulting Companies

If you become a healthcare consultant, it is likely that you will first work for a major healthcare consulting organization. After you get experience, you may want to work for a smaller, speciality organization, or eventually become a self-employed consultant. As you are thinking about the healthcare consulting field and where to work, experts advise the following:

  • The strength of a healthcare consulting company is the expertise depth of the various consultants who do the work, and how good and useful the analytical tools are that they use. In many cases, the senior consultants that are used to get a project accepted are not the true experts on the subject matter. In many cases, senior healthcare consultants are in more of a sales role who receive bonuses for winning contracts, and not for the end results of the contract. If you are thinking about working for a specific consulting company it is a good idea to know who actually are the subject matter experts you will be working with, and which analytic tools they use.
  • Every healthcare consulting organization has its strengths and weaknesses. Some are stronger in certain areas of healthcare consulting than others. Every healthcare consulting company has its own culture, too. You should try to work for a company that has many consultants who have a high level of experience in specific project areas.
  • Make certain that you are clear about the performance incentives at your company. You will want to have a solid base salary as well as a performance bonus, ideally.

Healthcare Consultant Pay

The median pay for all management consultants was $81,320 in 2015, with the top 10% earning more than $150,000 per year. The majority of healthcare consultants work for consulting organizations, and they are normally paid a salary and a bonus at the end of the year.

Self employed healthcare consultants are paid by their clients per hour or per project.

Healthcare Consultant Demand

Job demand in the healthcare consultant field will increase by a healthy 14% by 2024, which is much faster than average. Demand for consulting services in the healthcare field is growing; more competition and growth in the healthcare space means that healthcare organizations need to find ways to improve their level  of efficiency, patient care, and to control costs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that demand for consultants and analysts in healthcare will be especially strong in coming years. This growing industry sector is experiencing more costs because the population in the US is aging. Also, the new federal health care law has mandated many changes to health care business practices and insurance organizations. More healthcare consultants and analysts are needed to deal with these changes.

Experts believe that growth in healthcare consulting will be especially acute in smaller consulting firms that focus on a specific business function, such as HR or IT in healthcare organizations.

There also seems to be a growing demand for healthcare It consultants specifically for medical offices. Many doctors at medium and small medical organizations are recognizing the value of harnessing the full potential of EHR systems. In fact, a new report from a research firm named KLAS found that 120 healthcare providers were interviewed, and 70% stated last year that they would be hiring healthcare consultants and healthcare software consultants in the near future.

How to Become One

The best paying healthcare consultant and management analyst positions are most often for people with a master’s degree. Also, if you decide to earn your Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation, this can help you to get excellent opportunities.

There are relatively few colleges that offer degree programs specifically in healthcare or management consulting. However, there are many business areas that are a good background for a career in healthcare consulting, such as business, management, finance, accounting, economics, and information science.

A very good option to enter the healthcare consulting field is to earn your online MBA with a focus on healthcare management. For example, George Washington University offers a 55 credit hour MBA in healthcare management that you can complete in approximately two years. Core classes that will well prepare you for a healthcare consulting career include:

  • Financial Accounting
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Decision Making & Data Analysis
  • Operations Management
  • Finance
  • Global Perspectives
  • Micro for the Global Economy
  • Organizations and Human Capital
  • Marketing
  • Business Ethics and Public Policy
  • Strategic Management
  • Foundational Management Topics in Health Care

Summary

The field of healthcare and management consulting is a growing one, and you should expect to have many good opportunities in the field for years to come. Many experts in the field advise that the best way to enjoy the most well compensated opportunities is to earn your MBA in healthcare management.

Then, start to work for one of the major healthcare consulting firms to gain experience in critical project areas. After that, you may decide to work for a smaller organization and eventually work as a private healthcare consultant.

Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is HealthGrad.com's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

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