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Healthcare Management (HCM) Series: What is HCM?

Healthcare Management Series: What is HCM?

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has shed new light on the importance of healthcare management (HCM) and administration. The Financial Times recently published an article about how the pandemic is testing healthcare providers’ leadership skills in the U.K., and how clinicians with business school training are using their expertise to better manage staff and processes. In the U.S., the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued new guidelines specifically for effective operations management for healthcare facilities during COVID-19. In the guide, recommendations are given for  Adjusting the Way Healthcare Services Are Delivered During the Pandemic, including optimizing telehealth services, facilitating non-COVID clinical care to at-home patients, allocating PPE resources, and compliance to Infection Protection & Control (ICP) protocols. In all these cases, successful delivery requires efficient and effective oversight from leaders who have an understanding of both business and healthcare management fundamentals. 

In light of this, we are launching our new series on Healthcare Management, which will cover the fundamentals of the HCM field, current trends in education and certifications, as well as the most effective approaches to instilling and testing healthcare management skills in learners and future practitioners. This series will end with an overview of our own healthcare management training simulation, Healthcare Hero. Healthcare Hero puts the learner on a deep dive into the challenges of hospital administration. Developed for one of the world’s leading private hospital networks, the game is ideal for specialist healthcare management programs, or executive training for healthcare providers. But first, let’s dive into the basics of the Healthcare Management field. 

What is Healthcare Management?

Given the depth and breadth of this career field—with its many different job functions and diverse range of job titles—it can be difficult to pinpoint a single, all-encompassing healthcare management definition. Definitions can differ depending on who you ask, or under what circumstances the profession is being discussed or applied. Below are a few prominent definitions of Healthcare Management:

  • “Healthcare Management … refers to the management of hospitals, hospital networks, and/or health care systems, at the different levels of organization and planning of clinical activities and support processes. Also referred to as medical and/or health services or health administration, health management ensures that the outcomes are attained, that different areas within a health organization are running appropriately, that jobs are correctly defined and assessed, and that resources are used efficiently.”
    Handbook of Research on Trends in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Conditions(3)

In summary, Healthcare managers apply the principles of business management and leadership throughout the organizational hierarchies of healthcare facilities and/or systems to ensure effective and efficient administration and delivery of health services. Specific job duties might include ensuring that individual departments run smoothly, qualified employees are hired, information is disseminated efficiently throughout the organization, resources are used efficiently, and that specific performance outcomes are reached.  To be effective, healthcare managers need to possess a mixture of hard and soft skills, including:

  • Analytical skills
  • Communication skills
  • Detail-oriented
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Technical skills

For the purposes of this blog series, we will refer to Healthcare Management as an encompassing term for related, “sibling” fields of study: Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA), Master of Science in Healthcare Management (MSHM), and the MBA in Healthcare Management (MBA-HCM). While these degree programs have slightly different emphases on business management versus healthcare management versus administration, the relevant training and skills needed to excel in each field are similar enough to be discussed concurrently. However, it is worthwhile to briefly discuss their distinctions before delving into the rest of the series to get a sense of the different trends in healthcare management education. 

Trends in Healthcare Management Education

Healthcare management and administration undergraduate degrees have been popular in the U.S., the U.K. for decades. Typically received as a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, these degree programs used to take the shape of a traditional four-year track. Today, many HCM and administration degrees can be expedited through online programs and can be received in as little as 18-months. However, while these programs can open doors for entry-level positions, Master’s degree programs in HCM prepare learners for career advancement and leadership within healthcare systems and offer opportunities for specialization.

There are three general approaches to teaching HCM at the post-graduate level: the MBA in Healthcare Management (MBA-HCM), the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA), and the Master of Science in Healthcare Management (MSHCM). Like other subdisciplines of the MBA, an MBA in Healthcare Management grounds students in effective business practices and provides an in-depth overview of the business world on the whole and focuses on applying them to the healthcare industry, at both a systems- and facility- level. 

In contrast, the Master of Healthcare Administration degree offers more of a healthcare-first focus. These programs are most often housed in schools of public health, allied health, or even by schools of medicine, placing the degree program into a clinical health setting. 

Presenting a middle ground between the two fields of study discussed above comes the Master of Science in Healthcare Management (MSHCM). The MSHCM is an interdisciplinary approach that emphasizes the fundamentals of business and healthcare management in equal measure, teaching healthcare management that is elevated and optimized by the most effective and relevant business skills, theories and strategies. 

To read more about the differences between these degree programs, read our adjoining article, Trends in Healthcare Management Education. The diagram below presents the spectrum of HCM degrees, from the healthcare focus to the management focus.

HCM EducationEntering the Field, Specializations, & More Detail

The Healthcare Manager Role: An Overview

Healthcare management has been ranked as one of the top 20 fastest growing occupations in U.S.. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that jobs in healthcare management are anticipated to see a growth of 22 percent in the decade between 2010 and 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed new strains on health systems – of all kinds, in all places – and shed new light on the importance of effective healthcare management. As a result, we can only expect that the field of HCM to continue to grow in the U.S. and abroad. 

Healthcare management skills:

  • effective communication skills
  • knowledge of computers and their systems
  • Knowledge of electronic medical records
  • medical storage information
  • scheduling appointments
  • patient reception, processing
  • office environment and daily operations 
  • knowledge of current policies on billing, reimbursement, coding practice, banking, financial practice, and human resources and hiring

Generalists v. Specialists

There are general healthcare managers and those who are considered specialists. Generalists oversee entire facilities, while specialists might reside in specific departments like marketing, finance, policy analysis or accounting.

Types of Specializations:

  • Healthcare Informatics
  • Healthcare Management
  • Healthcare Financial Management
  • Healthcare Law & Policy

Licenses & Certifications

In the U.S., certification laws and regulations can vary state to state, but in most cases, healthcare administrators do not require a license, as a nurse practitioner or registered nurse would. 

For those who do not need a license, certification or other credentials may provide a professional advantage. Credentialing boards offer certification based on a combination of education, experience, and knowledge exams. 

Accrediting and Credential Organizations (U.S.):

  • The American College of Healthcare Executives 
    • The Fellow of American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE)
    • Certified Healthcare Executive (CHE)
  • The National Association for Healthcare Quality 
  • The American College of Medical Practice Executives 
  • Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC)
  • Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP)
  • Accreditation Commission for Health Care, Inc (ACHC)
  • Healthcare Quality Association on Accreditation (HQAA)

Accrediting and Credential Organizations (U.K./International):

  • Accreditation Canada International (formerly “The Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation”, or CCHSA)
  • Joint Commission International (JCI), in the United States
  • The Australian Council on Healthcare Standards, or ACHS
  • QHA Trent Accreditation (UK)
  • Acreditas Global (AAAHC U.S. international branch)

Conclusion

As the world faces its first truly globalized pandemic and works to bring together healthcare systems, facilities, and practitioners for the effective management of public health protocols, the need for effective, impactful HCM has perhaps never been greater. As we continue on with our Healthcare Management series, we will cover topics including how HCM operates in different health systems as well as the most effective ways to teach and train the principles of HCM to learners and future practitioners.

To learn about our very own Healthcare Management training solution, Healthcare Hero, contact us today and request a demo of this hands-on HCM simulation game.

Healthcare Hero


Healthcare Hero puts the learner on a deep dive into the challenges of hospital administration. Developed for one of the world’s leading private hospital networks, the game is ideal for specialist healthcare management programs, or executive training for healthcare providers.

  • Hospital Capacity Management
  • Managing Relationships with Insurers
  • Competitive Strategy
  • Navigating Quality / Cost trade-off