How to become a good healthcare manager

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How to become a good healthcare manager

Healthcare sector is often referred to as the ‘sunshine sector’ and as ‘recession-proof’. Rightly so, considering its attractiveness to drive employment, generate revenue and unfortunately, the ‘disease burden’ of India.

The market is estimated to be growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15%, reaching USD 280 billion from the present USD 100 billion. The market value of Health Information Technology (HIT) is pegged at $1 billion currently and is expected to grow 1.5 times by 2020. Even though universal health coverage and the reach of public health services continue to be the focus of Central and State governments, nearly 70% of the urban population and 63% of those living in rural areas prefer to use private healthcare services.

Mistrust, low quality of services and lower penetration in rural areas continue to exist in the public system. Domestic demand is robust with a rise in population, currently pegged at 1.26 billion, and increasing life expectancy. Majority of this growth is expected to take place in hospitals, particularly private ones. The rest of the market growth comprises medical devices, clinical trials, outsourcing, telemedicine, medical tourism, and health insurance and financing. Even though market outlook for the industry looks very attractive, the availability of a skilled workforce in the medical, non-medical and managerial sectors is limited in quantity and quality.

Recent rapid expansions in medical/nursing education have not been able to meet the domestic demands for skilled and qualified professionals. Some of the factors that are making healthcare delivery expensive are latest developments in emerging healthcare delivery models, health financing and insurance processing, competition, quality/accreditation, legal aspects, electronic medical records (EMR) and medical technology penetration into daily practice among others.

Operational efficiency and managing patient-centric care are becoming critical to cost containment, improving coverage (disease types as well as population) and quality of care. Here is where capacity building of smart and young graduates in healthcare management comes into picture to run the hospitals, diagnostic centres, super-specialty tertiary care services etc so that the doctors and nurses are freed up to focus on ‘clinical work’ for which they are trained.

Healthcare managers are faced with challenges in making things happen. They include creating new opportunities, adopting new technologies, meeting newer demands of patients and families, enabling high quality care delivery, balancing financial statements, keeping physicians and teams happy. The list is endless and the horizons of management are ever expanding. Let us look at the scenario of highly dynamic healthcare technology advances happening across the world:

Electronic medical records capturing personal encounters are going to evolve into ‘Care Management Medical Record’ including behavioural, medical and non-medical information, which would further capture and track what happens between patient’s visits.

Managers will face challenges to meet controlled access demands to information with proliferation of mobile and ‘internet of things’ (IoT) generated data by connected devices. Wearables, point of care devices, trackers, telemedicine and remote monitoring would make data management much more complex. Providers are looking at Big Data and Predictive Analytics to make accurate and informed decisions that affect the health of different regions and communities.

Synchronising data, data security, privacy and interoperability are daunting tasks for organisation level management. Increased scrutiny on insurance claims, security, legal and regulatory aspects could impact frontline clinicians’ effectiveness in care delivery in a not-so-easily predictable manner. All these are to be managed amidst innovations in the ever-growing diagnostic and treatment technologies.

At the core stands the quality of care and patient safety, the human touch to care management and families. Indian healthcare systems cannot afford to delay technology adoption. These are times, both exciting and exasperating, and management training in healthcare needs to be not only innovated upon, but made highly practice-oriented.

Management education in India is catching up in a big way in general management, but is often theoretical at best, in most institutions, barring the top-ranked institutions. The emerging healthcare management institutions other than those established in the last three to four decades have not ensured high quality training and skills required for the fast-growing dynamic sector. The sector demands that young management graduates be not only tech-savvy and skilled, but also sensitive to the social, emotional and commercial aspects of healthcare delivery.

Legality and ethics in practice of medicine, healthcare marketing, accidents/emergency care and latest developments in organ transplant or surrogacy continue to challenge healthcare providers and managers. The present healthcare management education has to gear itself to adapt faster and create a passionate attitude among youngsters to take on the challenges. They have to learn to support and create conducive organisational environment for doctors and specialists to carry out their medical practice in order to achieve best outcomes, patient satisfaction, and operational efficiencies as well as service quality with a fine balancing act of financial books and cost containment. It may seem like a tall order, but is certainly achievable.

(The author is dean - academics, IIHMR, Bengaluru)

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