Essential skills for Healthcare Management Professionals
Last two decades have witnessed exponential growth in the healthcare sector. According to a FICCI-KPMG 2015 report, India’s healthcare industry valued at $73.92 billion in 2011 is expected to grow to $ 280 billion by 2020. Consequent to the growth of the sector the demand for the work force is expected to double to 7.4 million in 2022. Recent years have seen high demand of management professionals in healthcare sector-health insurance, corporate hospitals, medical tourism and healthcare technology- and this trend is expected to grow.
Though healthcare could be considered as any other service industry but unique characteristics of healthcare from all other services stand it apart from other service industries. First, healthcare deals with issues of life and death. Second, healthcare providers as well as consumers are not sure when they will need healthcare, and will a particular healthcare service result in successful outcome. These issues make healthcare industry much more complex than any other industry Peter Drucker the Guru of Management in his book “Managing in the Next Society” published in 2002 has said that healthcare organizations are one of the very complex organizations and thus requires some specific skills among healthcare managers to be successful in this sector.
The Healthcare Leadership Alliance a consortium of healthcare professional associations in United States came out with five essential skills for all practicing healthcare managers. These skills or competencies are
(1) Communication Skills: As healthcare deals with the sensitive issues related to human life and death, and the ability to communicate clearly and concisely as well as establish and maintain relationships with customers and all other stakeholders becomes very vital.
(2) Leadership Skills: The ability to lead individuals and organization for achieving successful performance.
(3) Professionalism: As healthcare professional always have more information than patient, there are professional standards that a healthcare workers needs to comply with. Healthcare Managers need to have ability to align their professional and organizational conduct with these professional standards which generally include responsibility to the patient and community, a service orientation, and a commitment to lifelong learning and improvement.
(4) Knowledge of the Healthcare Environment: The healthcare industry is one of the very complex industries or sector in the economy and therefore requires a good understanding of the sector. Because of the unique characteristics of the healthcare, a deeper understanding of how healthcare systems work and environment in which healthcare workers operate is critical for effective functioning of healthcare managers. Healthcare organizations generally prefer candidates who have experience of working in healthcare sector.
(5) Business Skills and Knowledge: Finally like any other industry healthcare managers should have basic management skills relating to managing finances, people, organizations, risks, information flow, quality and strategic thinking. Though these are basic management skills applicable to all sectors but in case of healthcare, because of the unique nature of healthcare, the application of these concepts differ and take a new meaning. Therefore healthcare organizations prefer candidates with specialized training in healthcare management.
Above skills are more or less applicable to all countries and contexts, however in emerging economies like India, entrepreneurial skills are high valued. In emerging economics, including India, healthcare sector is unorganized and fragmented. The sector has ample scope for entrepreneurs of new generation and experts opine that disruptive frugal innovations are the key to growth of the sector, an area where management graduates have key role to play. Therefore entrepreneurial skills are of great asset for a healthcare management graduate.