Healthcare consultants perform analysis, and also render other services like recruiting and hiring, for organizations such as hospitals, doctor’s offices and health insurance plans. In many instances, their work is focused on cost cutting or various process improvements for boosting operational efficiency. Consultants often work for external firms that are contracted as needed by healthcare companies.
Landing a healthcare consultant job requires the right mix of education and relevant experience. Health consultants often have at least a bachelor’s degree in a field like business administration or public health. Master’s degrees, such as the online Healthcare Master of Business Administration (HCMBA) from the George Washington University (GW), are also very common in this field.
Like virtually all other managerial and analytical roles in U.S. healthcare, these consulting jobs are expected to see strong growth in the near future, due to:
- An aging population with higher utilization rates
- Regulatory mandates to improve clinical outcomes
- Initiatives aimed at reducing overhead at healthcare organizations
- The growth of technologies such as electronic health records (EHR)
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected 18% employment growth (much faster than average) for medical and health services managers from 2018 to 2028. Management analyst positions were also expected to increase by 14% over that same time period.
Where and how healthcare consultants work
There’s no shortage of employment opportunities for well-qualified healthcare consultants. Numerous healthcare practices, from medical providers to health insurance plans, seek out the analytical acumen of consultants. The types of companies that regularly hire consultants include:
- Physician’s offices
- Nursing homes
- Pharmaceutical makers
- Medical device manufacturers
- Government agencies
- Health insurance plans
The exact working arrangement between a consultant and one of these clients will vary from case to case, based on the size of the organization and the scope of the project.
More specifically, a lot of consultants work for external companies, such as consultancies or law offices specializing in healthcare. Those firms are in turn enlisted by the above types of healthcare companies on a temporary basis. Alternatively, consultants may work in-house, e.g. directly for a hospital or insurer. In the latter instances, they may have slightly different job titles, such as practice administrator.
However, the core responsibilities will be largely similar. Those functions typically include:
- Performing research and gathering data related to the project at hand
- Conducting interviews and on-site observations to collect this information
- Analyzing detailed reports about the organization’s budget, revenue, current employment and day-to-day operations
- Delivering recommendations (e.g., about upgrading IT systems or restructuring staff) to executives based on such analysis
- Creating reports and giving presentations that include these recommendations and other findings related to ways to improve efficiency or save money
- Meeting regularly with stakeholders at the healthcare organization to keep them updated on the progress of ongoing projects
- Formulating goals and objectives for the organization as a whole or a specific department
- Recruiting, hiring and training staff members, plus setting work schedules for them
- Making and maintaining records of a healthcare facility’s operations, e.g. how many beds and physicians it has
- Understanding relevant regulatory obligations and overseeing all of the work necessary for complying with them
- Ensuring that key technologies such as EHR platforms and other IT systems are up to date, compliant and aligned with the organization’s needs
Overall, most healthcare consultants and practice managers focus on strategic management tasks, although their work also spans areas such as finance and accounting, human resources, IT management and employee benefits. The wide-ranging nature of their work necessitates a varied set of skills, as well as a related educational background.
How to become a healthcare consultant
A healthcare consultant usually has a bachelor’s degree or higher in a healthcare field or an area such as business administration, which is why MBAs are quite common among health-focused consultants. A master’s degree can be useful or even required for advanced consulting positions with relatively high compensation.
While healthcare background is not essential for every consulting role, it is necessary for some of them, such as ones that revolve around improving patient outcomes or making key changes to healthcare technology or practice. A degree that combines healthcare expertise with training in strategic management, such as the GW HCMBA, can be particularly advantageous.
The GW HCMBA provides crucial background in traditional MBA topics such as managerial accounting and data analysis, which are pivotal functions for any healthcare consultant. Plus, students get in-depth immersion in health-related subjects including quality improvement science and the clinical research industry. As an online program, it also offers the greatest convenience for healthcare professionals who have busy schedules.
How much do healthcare consultants make?
Essentially, all healthcare consultants will fit into one of the two BLS occupational categories mentioned earlier, namely medical and health services managers and management analysts. Both of these occupations have better than normal growth prospects and higher than average median pay.
- According to the BLS, medical and health services managers earned a median of more than $99,000 in 2018. That’s over $10,000 more than other management occupations. Managers who work in government or hospitals make the most.
- Meanwhile, management analysts came in at $83,610 in 2018, about $16,000 more than the typical business operations role. Analysts delivering “professional, scientific and technical services” earned the most.
Healthcare consultants can expect above-average compensation for their work, not to mention ample opportunities for employment as the healthcare sector continues to expand to serve an aging demographic.
If you’re considering a career as a healthcare consultant, the GW HCMBA may be a useful addition to your CV or resume. To learn more about how to get started, visit the program overview page today, where you can download a copy of our brochure.