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The Business of Healthcare

By Susan Aaron | The Learning Coach

As a patient in a hospital or clinic, you see nurses, doctors and specialized direct care personnel. But medicine is also a business. If you’re interested in working in a medical setting and have transferable skills, you may be just a few steps away from being qualified.

Transferable Positions

“With the sudden decline in high tech, more and more people are considering [working in healthcare],” says John Lew, recruitment and retention manager for Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.

While previous employment in a healthcare setting and knowledge of healthcare systems is preferred, most job descriptions do not state educational requirements beyond those needed for the same occupations elsewhere. While department heads usually handle hiring, an outsider is sometimes brought in to shake things up a little.

Positions that Require Specialized Education

Some business positions within healthcare require education specific to the healthcare industry. If your studies included the sciences or business, you may have less education ahead of you. The amount of study needed varies with the position. Note that, with the exception of medical assistant, the occupations listed below do not include direct care.

Medical assistants: These are the people you meet when you enter a doctor’s office. Their job is a hybrid of business and medicine. They check you in, process your records, keep appointments, track prescriptions and perform some direct care such as taking blood pressure, assisting the doctor in an examining room and performing simple lab tests. Some are trained on the job, but more frequently they have associate’s degrees that can be earned in two years at a community college.

Health information manager: These professionals manage the flow of medical records and other information. Although they don’t normally interact with patients, they still must have knowledge of medical terminology, medical law and medical coding systems. Preparation for this position is typically a bachelor of science degree in health information management. C.W. Post University in Long Island, New York offers this degree, as well as a certificate program for those who already hold a bachelor of science degree.

Health information technician: This position is junior to that of a health information manager, but is also responsible for medical information. An associate’s degree is usually required. Health information clerks are junior to health information technicians. They work with charts and other medical information.

Medical transcriptionist: These professionals transcribe recorded patient histories and clinical information. They need a knowledge of medical terminology and the language and writing skills to transfer abbreviated and simplified note taking into useable information for medical files. Community colleges offer associate’s degrees in medical transcription.

Medical secretary: Secretaries manage information flow within medical offices just as with any business office. Office software skills are increasingly necessary, as is an understanding of medical terminology, which can be learned on the job, through in-house training or through specialized courses. Training is available at vocational high schools, training institutes and community colleges.

Healthcare administrator: This is an umbrella title for a range of tasks. A healthcare administrator oversees the organization and flow of a healthcare office or project. Financial management, staff coordination, project planning and policy and procedure implementation are common responsibilities. Candidates should understand finance, business organization, law and ethics as they relate to a healthcare setting. A master’s degree in healthcare administration is usually required for this position. There are alternatives to this route, such as an MBA with concentration in healthcare.

The healthcare industry is large and varied, with many opportunities at institutions big and small. It can also be demanding. "People have a misconception of healthcare as laid back, says Lew. “We’re actually pretty lean. Employees are asked to juggle.” If you’re interested in healthcare, give your skills and knowledge a check up — it’s a growing industry.

Non-medical Positions in Healthcare

Computer system analysts
Computer engineers
Human resources personnel
Security staff
Food service workers
Housekeeping staff
Building services personnel
Public relations and communications workers
Grant writers
Childcare workers

Training and education requirements for these positions can be found in the Department of Labor’s online Occupational Outlook Handbook.

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