When we think of professionals working in healthcare, we tend to automatically think of doctors, nurses and allied health personnel. However, there are roles filled by those who are detail-oriented, analytical, strategic and who are intrigued by the dynamic world of finance.
By many accounts, the healthcare industry is booming. “From 2010 to 2020, healthcare production will increase by over 70 percent, from $1.8 trillion to $3.1 trillion,” states Georgetown University’s Healthcare Executive Summary (June 2012). “In the same period, there will be an estimated 5.6 million healthcare job vacancies.” This also suggests that positions in Finance and the Healthcare Industry will increasingly be in need.
There are various financial roles in healthcare. The Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), for example, has over 39,000 members that are “employed by hospitals, integrated delivery systems, managed care organizations, ambulatory and long-term care facilities, physician practices, accounting and consulting firms, and insurance companies,” states the HFMA’s Healthcare Finance Outlook 2009 report . “Members’ positions include CEO, CFO, controller, patient accounts manager, accountant, and consultant.”
If you would like to work as a financial professional in a healthcare setting, you can tailor your education and work experience to gain knowledge and practice to fill this niche.
Finance Healthcare Education Options
A Bachelor’s degree is ideal for those with no post secondary education who are seeking entry- to mid-level jobs.
• Look for universities that offer undergraduate degree programs where you can do a double major (or a major and minor) in finance and healthcare management.
• Find Bachelor of Finance degree programs that include healthcare-related courses as part of its curriculum (such as course in life and health insurance) or offer the option of selecting electives that relate to the healthcare industry.
• Complete a Healthcare Management (or related) degree that offers coursework in finances.
Completing a Master’s degree is ideal for those looking to make a career change and/or is striving for more executive roles.
• When researching Master’s of Finance programs, ask faculty members whether electives, work placements or research projects may be directly linked to healthcare.
• A number of MBA (Master of Business Administration) programs include the option of concentrating in healthcare or healthcare management.
• Master of Health Administration programs (or related degrees) are geared for those seeking leadership roles in healthcare and they often include courses on financial procedures, analysis and management.
Certificate Programs and Continuing Education
• Since certificate programs are generally highly-specialized, you’ll find in your research that numerous colleges and universities will offer relevant options, such as “Health Finance and Management,” “Healthcare Accounting and Financial Management” and “Public Health Economics” certificate programs.
• Professional associations—such as the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) and the Medical Group Management Association- American College of Medical Practice Executives (MGMA-ACMPE)—offer numerous educational opportunities (such as conferences, workshops and webinars) as well as certification programs to earn relevant credentials.
Whether it is required as part of the degree you are pursuing or not, it is extremely beneficial to complete an internship or job placement to gain valuable on-the-job training, as well as to form relationships with potential future employers. Numerous healthcare settings offer work experience placements in their financial departments. Examples include integrated health care systems, hospitals, medical clinics, physician offices, medical technology companies, healthcare advocacy/policy groups, health insurance companies, healthcare consulting firms and more.
Finance and The Healthcare Industry Careers
Finance professionals can work for a variety of healthcare employers, such as hospitals and integrated healthcare systems, long term care facilities, doctors’ offices, consulting firms, medical clinics, healthcare foundations, ambulatory care organizations and health technology companies. Finance careers in the healthcare industry include:
• Financial Analyst
• Manager of a healthcare practice
• Fraud examiner
• Budget Director
• Director of Patient Financial Services
• Billing Supervisor
• Financial Systems Coordinator
• Billing and Coding Representative
• Revenue Specialist
• Sales Rep
• Financial Consultant
• Business Decision Support Representative
• Director of Patient Access
• Director of Financial Planning
• Executive Director of Finance
• Manager of Patient Financial Assistance
• Director of Contracting
• Vice President & Finance Officer
• CFO (Chief Financial Officer)
• CEO (Chief Executive Officer)
If you have an educational background in finance, without any experience in healthcare, but hope to eventually move into the industry, you can start by working with an employer that is linked to healthcare. Monster.com’s Dona DeZube calls this a “stepping-stone job”. “Another way to get into healthcare is to use your finance background to move laterally into a company that provides services to the healthcare industry, such as Schaller Anderson, which consults to HMOs,” states DeZube. “Once there, you can expand your industry knowledge and later move more fully into healthcare.”