Change of career: Going into the health care administration field ??
March 27, 2013 7:29 AM   Subscribe

I might need to go back to work and I am thinking about a career change. I have held business analysts/planner positions in retail but while I enjoy the actual work, i don't enjoy the purpose/ field. Working retail is starting to feel a bit pointless, trying to sell more stuff to people all the time. I am interested in taking my skills to a different field. Maybe a similar job but with a different goal. Namely healthcare administration could be what I am looking for. I'd would want to work for patient advocacy groups or in the government (ie: not trying to make an extra buck to private insurance). But to do that I figure I need to understand how the private system works too.

I might need to go back to work and I am thinking about this time to do a career change. I have held business analysts/planner positionl in retail but while I enjoy the work, i don't like the field I am working in. Working retail is starting to feel a bit pointless, trying to sell more stuff to people all the time.

I am interested in taking my skills to a different field. Maybe a similar job but with a different goal. Namely healthcare administration could be what I am looking for. I'd would want to work for patient advocacy groups or in the government (ie: not trying to make an extra buck to private insurance). But to do that I figure I need to understand how the private system works too and make my self marketable.

I have 2 good degrees from good schools but useless in this case: they are in the design/art field.
I have work experience as planner/ business analyst. I have also run my own business before. I have also experienced 3 different healthcare systems as a patient (not that it matter that much, but it gives a different perspective)

I was thinking about starting with a basics coding certification from AHIMA... I also started a job alert to see what the position I like require.. Sounds like some of them require a Bachelor health administration or equivalent, AND experience in hospital billing systems..
So BA ok, i get how to do that, but hospital billing systems? Most job have these requirement, even what looks like entry level.

Question, what would be a good starting point..? I feel like I am not looking at it right, or maybe not looking at the right jobs. If someone is working this field, I would welcome some advice on position to start with to learn the basics, Or maybe advice on what training/certification to get.
I don't think I can go back to school for a bachelor. I was hoping there was a bridge with a shorter course I could take. I cannot get transfer credit since my degrees are from Art colleges in England and France so going back to school for 4 years when I have already 6 behind me is not an option.
posted by kirikara to Work & Money (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
You don't say where you are, and that is somewhat important. I'm going to answer as if you are in the U.S. If you're not, YMMV.

A coding certification qualifies you to do coding, and that's pretty much it. Unless you really want to do coding, that's not where I would start.

It is possible that your job alerts are pulling health information management analyst jobs, which is probably not what you want. There are business analysts in healthcare, doing similiar work to what you probably did in retail. Sometimes the medical records positions get similiar job titles, but it is more wrangling medical records than business analysis.

Your analysis skills are valuable to health care systems and hospitals (as well as insurance companies, but I fully understand your desire not to work for one), and that's where I recommmend you look for jobs. They are typically called "business analyst" or "planner" in the job description. People get hired into these positions from outside of health care, so lack of experience in the field doesn't have to be a detriment. What you will be missing is an understanding of how the health care system/market works. The requirement for experience with hospital billing systems may be a proxy for understanding the craziness that is health care financing.

If you already have a bachelor's degree, do not get another BA. There are graduate certificate programs in health care administration, or consider a Master's in Healthcare Administration. Neither kind of program will require you to have previous coursework in health care administration (although top programs will often require some health care work experience). Health care is really (perhaps overly) focused on the value of graduate education, so it is common for analyst and planning positions to require or favor a MHA or MBA. Avoid for-profit schools (U of Phoenix, Strayer, etc.) like the plague.

Consider volunteering in a hospital in your area. Hospital volunteers work all over the hospital, including in administrative areas. The volunteer work in an administrative area will be clerical, but it can be a good way to meet people and learn more about the field.

Patient advocacy orgs and the government (unles you're thinking VA or public hospitals) will likely have a greater need for policy analysts, which is pretty different from business analysis.

I have worked in health care for 15 years, and I'm just about to finish a MHA. Feel free to hit me up on MeMail if you have more questions.
posted by jeoc at 9:32 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, thanks Jeoc. that was reassuring.. I am indeed in the US. I was really starting to feel like even though I feel like my general skills could apply to anything, I'd have to start from scratch.
I am mostly interested in finding a job where my skills are utilized for a decent purpose, and where i feel like I am gaining efficiencies through analysis to provide better care/service/reimbursement etc..

It is hard to know which exact position/group of position I am looking for. Policy analysts vs business analysts vs.. Business analyst in the company I worked for was vastly different from the usual business analyst posting i see in the financial field as an example. (retail : I was more of a business planner or buyer depending on the position held).

I will be looking into different type of jobs, maybe volunteering at the hospital or try to get a entry level position there temporarily to get an experience while I do a certificate..
I have always been very interested in how the US system works so Id say I am probably way more educated than the average consumer, but know nothing compared to something who has worked within the industry.

At least it sounds like there is hope!
posted by kirikara at 9:44 AM on March 27, 2013


Be aware that healthcare is undergoing rapid change, with lots of unknowns coming because of the Affordable Care Act. A smart person who was interested in healthcare policy or administration would spend some time investigating the potential impact, and how to help organizations transition. The healthcare system I work in, a big University medical school and hospital, seems to have lots of jittery admins. Hell, we're all jittery.
posted by citygirl at 11:02 AM on March 27, 2013


Actually, I work for one of the big, mean insurers and all signs point to anything surrounding healthcare being very stable for the next few years.

We were jittery between ACA's implementation and the Supreme Court ruling on the law but now everyone's regrouped and sees this as a real opportunity, especially since the subsidies means more customers overall.

I have a legal background and am also considering an MHA. Before you invest in the full degree, take a look at courses through the following organizations:

America's Health Insurance Plans (ahip.org)

The American College (theamericancollege.edu) Don't forget the "the", otherwise you'll get some link for a school in the Middle East.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 1:46 PM on March 27, 2013


Thanks citygirl. actually the changes coming is what interests me eve more.. As an analyst and someone interested to find ways to improve things, a period of change can be a good time too. Also means lots to learn and that is appreciable to me too.
Quick question:
You wrote:
"A smart person who was interested in healthcare policy or administration would spend some time investigating the potential impact, and how to help organizations transition"

What would that mean.. I guess I am asking more details since my question was precisely where to start if trying to do that..?
posted by kirikara at 3:19 PM on March 27, 2013


all signs point to anything surrounding healthcare being very stable for the next few years

Well, maybe if you work for an insurer. The provider side (physicians and hospitals) are going through an intense period of mergers and acquisitions, and in 5 years there will be very few independent hospitals or physician practices. There is a lot of pressure from many quarters to improve quality and hold down prices, and many smaller organizations just can't stay solvent in the current environment. Like citygirl, I currently work for a big university hospital and medical school. We're in good shape, but we're battening down the hatches and lots of places in our area are not in good shape.

With all those mergers, health care systems are looking to get efficiencies of scale and purchasing is usually one of the first places they look. While the business analyst positions are going to be more like those in the financial industry (e.g., assessing whether the organization should buy x practice or offer y service), there are positions focused on planning purchasing and optimizing supply inventory. You might look for materials management or purchasing positions. There are also sometimes specialized people that do this for operating rooms, but they typically want OR experience.

Many health care orgs are looking to Lean manufacturing processes and Six Sigma as a template for how to do more with less. Any expertise in that area can be very valuable. Health informatics is also a big growth area, if you are interested in data and computers.

One good place to start learning about what is wrong (and right) in healthcare is The Institute for Healthcare Improvement. There's also a recent documentary from some of the folks involved with this group called Escape Fire. I haven't seen it (hello, grad school!), but I have heard good things.

There are some good interesting healthcare-related courses on Coursera. These don't count for college credit, but they are free and in my experience generally quite good.

Healthcare Innovation (from Duke)
Health Policy and the Affordable Care Act (from U Penn)
Rationing and Allocating Scarce Medical Resources (from U Penn)

You may also find some interesting information from professional groups.

The Medical Group Management Association focuses on physician practice administration.
American College of Healthcare Executives is more focused on hospital administration (and they have a hilariously appropriate acronym).
Health Information Management Systems Society is the premier informatics/IT group.

Despite the very real and daunting challenges facing health care providers in the next decade, I think it is a great industry to work in. I like that my work makes a difference, and things are definitely interesting.
posted by jeoc at 6:01 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks for that info jeoc// this is a really complete answer.
It sounds like I might actually be interested in joining the US government as an analyst..
I found this position:
https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/342206800

Which seems to be pretty entry level, maybe even too entry level for me.
But, as usual, some of the requirements include:
1. Knowledge of the principles, practices, methods and techniques of public health programs.

2. Knowledge of prevention methods.

3. Knowledge of public health programs.
c
I was also shocked to see that at that range of salary (40-60k) they are asking for a master level degree?
I will take a look at all the course you are mentioning.
I still don't know where to get the kind of health care experiences they all want me to have... Maybe i need to work in a hospital office for 6 months, filing stuff to get things started.

I have to say, this kind of job just sounds exciting to me. I know the day to day will be probably similar to what I have been already doing. But I do miss the higher purpose/goal.
I'd like to think that my work goes toward something bigger, with a meaning, rather than just selling more stuff to people who buy it with their credit card.
I have also find a non profit association that I might volunteer as soon as i can, that works on patient advocacy and health policy changes. They do hire people once in a while, but I would have to move to Washington...would rather stay where we are.
posted by kirikara at 1:59 AM on May 8, 2013


« Older Relapsing, Repeating Neck Pain   |   Is there a strategy game with a ret-conned API to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.