You don't have to spend much time in a medical practice office to see that everyone who works there is busy. Doctors, nurses, PAs, receptionists, billers and coders, and technicians continually have their hands full with patients, tests, and the endless record-keeping that is modern medicine.
But who is taking care of (literal) business? Enter the medical practice manager. These healthcare business professionals play a crucial role in ensuring a physician's office, hospital, nursing home, or other medical facility runs smoothly and is a pleasant experience for both patients and the professionals who work there every day. The job requires expertise in business, excellent communication and organizational skills, and a can-do attitude to stay on top of a mountain of responsibilities.
Some medical practice managers oversee entire offices, while others are in charge of a single department or group of physicians. In all environments, this career requires a working knowledge of the medical industry as a whole, general business management, and human resources practices. Health administrators must also understand the intricacies of medical coding and scheduling. It doesn't hurt if they have some aptitude for marketing, as well. It's a big, complicated, essential job. Many medical businesses fail for the lack of a skilled and motivated medical practice manager.
That's why medical practice managers are so well-paid. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 the median annual income for medical practice managers was $99,730 per year. U.S. News & World Report notes that the top 25 percent of managers in the healthcare industry do even better, earning an average annual income of $128,960. With healthcare jobs projected to grow faster than average, at a rate of 14 percent over the next decade, medical practice manager should be a safe career choice for those with strong leadership and interpersonal skills.
In this guide, we'll discuss:
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, successful medical practice managers share several talents and strengths, including:
You'll also need skills as a recruiter and hirer. As the American Academy of Family Physicians reports, one major problem medical managers face is the "revolving door" of front desk staff. Creating a program and procedures to retain staff is the responsibility of a physician practice manager.
And you'll be responsible for overseeing critical financial operations. You'll oversee a complicated billing system that includes various insurers, Medicaid, Medicare, and patients paying out of pocket. You'll work with health insurance representatives to secure reimbursements.
And that's not all. Making sure your practice complies with all federal and state regulations? That's on you. Keeping the office stocked with everything from medical supplies to those pens one doctor really loves? That's on you, too. Staying up-to-date on best practices in the medical profession? You guessed it—that's your job as well.
You'll need at least a bachelor's degree to become a medical practice manager. Popular majors for prospective medical practice managers include business, health policy, or economics.
Many healthcare administrators earn their master's degree, as well. A Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) or Master of Health Services Administration (MHSA) (these two degrees are essentially identical) will provide you with expertise in many areas of business. Curricula for both degrees typically include courses in:
You can earn an MHA or MHSA online from:
Few individuals exit a graduate program and immediately begin work as a medical practice manager. This is a job that requires experience, so chances are you will start in a lower-level administrative position and work your way up to the captain's chair.
Your career outlook as a medical practice manager should be solid, especially if you pursue a master's degree in healthcare administration. Healthcare executives work in clinical practices of all sizes, as well as hospitals and medical groups. Nursing homes and other alternative healthcare facilities need administrators, too.
As previously noted, this is a growth industry. The need for more medical practice managers is increasing as a result of new healthcare technology that helps Americans age better and live longer.
Also as previously noted, this is a job in which professionals typically work their way up from lower-level management jobs. You may start as a community service manager at a nonprofit health agency or work in human resources in a health-related office. You may also work as an assistant to a medical executive or work under an administrator at a medical office. Promotions come with time, experience, and proven achievement.
Many universities offer bachelor's degrees with a focus on the skills needed to become a medical practice manager. Full-time students typically complete a bachelor's in four years; a master's can require another one to two years. Consider the following undergraduate programs:
The College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University-Tempe offers a focus on health administration and policy that is commonly used as a springboard for those interested in working in medical practice management.
Maryville College offers an online Bachelor's in Healthcare Management. The online program is especially convenient for students working in medical practice management and looking to advance their careers. The program includes an immersive practicum.
UHV's Bachelor in Business Administration with a concentration in healthcare administration preps students in two areas essential to medical practice management. The majority of general business and healthcare administration courses for this program are avaialble online.
Texas Tech's Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management can be completed online. The program offers two degree concentration: Healthcare Professional, and Executive Management. The former is designed for working medical practitioners, the latter for managers and administrators.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the healthcare and social assistance sector employed nearly 20 million Americans in 2018. That figure is poised to grow to over 23 million by 2028, making it the single largest employment sector in the country. The opportunities are out there for those possessing the skills and the temperament for this demanding job. You'll earn well and make a lot of doctors' (and other professionals' and patients') lives easier. That's a pretty good prescription for a desirable career.
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