Intro to Healthcare Management: Free Online Course

Develop your talent stack in Healthcare Management.

Welcome to the Healthcare Management Stack. This free online course is designed to help students further expand their talent stack with an introduction to the healthcare management sector. We will cover a general overview and the foundations of healthcare management. Then we will dive into changes and opportunities that are taking place in the field. We will finish out on how to make strides in building up your Healthcare Management Stack.

This online course will direct students to free videos, articles, and resources. Each section will offer two to three hours of learning material to build up your healthcare management stack.

At the end of each section, students will get an opportunity to invest in their learning. While this free online course can stand alone as a great introduction to the ever-changing healthcare management field, we encourage each student to keep in mind how they can use this experience to continue building their talent stack and maybe enter into an advanced degree like an MBA.

The World of Healthcare Management

What Does a Healthcare Manager Do?

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Healthcare management refers to the business side of how a healthcare organization runs. Health care managers are focused on how to create and execute a business plan for their organizations. 

Healthcare managers often act as a spokesperson for media inquiries for their organization. Others might oversee the schedules for the nursing staff or design patient care surveys, and address patient complaints. They handle things like the organization’s budget, policies, compliance, and patient care standards.

Regardless of your specific role, all healthcare managers can play a significant role in improving patient care and outcomes. In fact, this aspect of healthcare management can be the thing that helps health services managers get through the more mundane or disheartening aspects of their jobs.

Thinking about the career track you’re pursuing, in what ways might you play a positive role in patient care and outcomes? This article from Gallup lists five steps that healthcare managers can take to improve care. Are they similar to what you came up with? How might you apply these steps in your current role, if at all?

Healthcare managers are the ones who deal with a hospital’s or practice’s patient records, finances, politics, community education, and administration. You’ll find them hiring, training, and supervising employees. They need to keep ahead of changes in healthcare laws and regulations and update their organizations accordingly. Healthcare managers engage with everyone, from patients to medical professionals to insurance agents; therefore, good communication skills are imperative.This might look like working out issues with medical equipment, overseeing departmental budgets, and making decisions regarding performance evaluations.

While often unseen, healthcare managers play vital roles in running an organization. They also go by a variety of names depending on the type of organization they manage – from hospital executive to clinical manager to health information manager. You might see them called a clinical director or a healthcare supervisor. Or even an office manager. It all depends on what organization you work for. But the thing about healthcare management is that it’s an umbrella term for a broad industry. 

This document provides further information on healthcare management. In particular, after reading, you should have a firm grasp of the various functions, roles, and responsibilities within healthcare management. While you’re reading, also note the key competencies discussed and consider how they are at play in the healthcare management career path you are pursuing. 

Healthcare Administration Vs. Healthcare Management

Something to address is the difference between healthcare management and healthcare administration. The two are often used interchangeably, and some argue that it’s fine. Others believe there are important differences between the two. If healthcare management is focused on the business end, healthcare administration is concerned with the coordination of staff. A healthcare administrator helps create and support systems and policies that help medical professionals deliver the needed care to patients. Often healthcare administrators are medical staff themselves. While a healthcare manager usually comes from a business background. 

Here’s one breakdown of the difference between the two. What’s your take? Do you think both roles fall under the same umbrella, or do you feel there should be a distinction between healthcare management and healthcare administration?

Healthcare Management Roles

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Healthcare management is a wide umbrella, and many roles and positions fall under it. You might have an idea already of what direction you’ll take in your healthcare management career, but there might be other paths to consider. Here’s a pretty lengthy list of healthcare management titles and descriptions. As you read through them, are there new roles you’d not yet considered? Are there a variety of roles you could use to build a career path?

On this website of the American College of Healthcare Executives, you’ll find professional profiles of four healthcare managers discussing how they entered the healthcare management field, what their roles entail, and why they do what they do. As you read through them, what inspires or excites you about their work? What resonates with your own career goals? What gives you pause?

Investment Opportunity 

The American College of Healthcare Executives boasts a variety of digital self-study courses. Topics range from fundamentals of the field to current topics in the industry. There is a discounted rate for members, so you can also consider joining ACHE to take advantage of the benefits of membership.

Foundations of Healthcare Management

In the Beginning

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Until the late 1800s, hospitals were generally places where the ill went when they had no one else to care for them. There simply wasn’t a whole lot a hospital could do for a patient that couldn’t already be done at home.

Healthcare management, therefore, didn’t come about until the late 1800s, which was a period of development in the healthcare field with the discovery of things like anesthesia, modern surgery, antibiotics, and antisepsis. Hospitals became a place that could play a significant role in curing ailments and relieving pain.

This also meant that the number of hospitals dramatically increased, along with new laws and regulations to the healthcare field, which brought an increased need for administrative oversight. 

In this book introduction, you’ll get a brief overview of the history of healthcare management. Given what you know of the field today, what strikes you as important in terms of how the field developed since the late 1800s?

Foundations of Managed Care & Health Insurance

Between the 1910s and 1940s, early forms of health insurance were established. Before then, patients paid their doctors out of pocket. Medical societies joined together as a way to prepay for a doctor’s services. The first prepaid group plan was in Tacoma, Washington, lumber mills in 1910. Around the same time, the first capitation plans were also being established, which would later become what we know today as HMOs.

In 1972, Congress passed the Health Maintenance Organization Act or HMO Act, which came out of the capitation plans from the 1940s. This act provided funds for new HMOs in the hopes that they would help keep health costs down. It also increased managed care systems across the U.S. 

Read this chapter from A History of Managed Health Care and Health Insurance in the United States. The chapter covers U.S. healthcare history from the early 1900s until today. Examine the learning objectives listed at the beginning of the chapter. How does your understanding of the history of health insurance shape the present and the role of healthcare management?

Insurance is a monolithic force in U.S. healthcare. Adding an understanding of the history of health insurance and its current impact on the industry is an important key to your career stack as a healthcare manager. Spend some time going through this free course on management foundations of healthcare. How do you see ethical and respectful medicine working in tandem with smart business and operational practices to create better health outcomes?

Healthcare & Social Change

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While medical advances since the 1880s have been significant in how we view and engage with healthcare in the United States, the social aspects of healthcare should also be considered. Social inequities across Americans play a prominent role in how people are able to access healthcare and the type of healthcare they are given.

As a healthcare manager, understanding the role of society in healthcare is vital for helping your organization make decisions in the best interest of your patients and your community.

This paper looks at the relationship between society and health in the U.S., starting in 1880 and continuing into the early 21st century. According to the author, what societal aspects led to better health outcomes, and what are the major social equity issues that need to be addressed?

Investment Opportunity

Consider joining the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management. The AAHAM works to provide healthcare managers who are focused on revenue cycles with education and certification, as well as networking and advocacy opportunities.

Changes in Healthcare Management

Change is one of the few constants in life, and healthcare management is no exception. Healthcare managers must competently deal with change that comes from both internal and external factors for their organization. But how healthcare managers deal with change is perhaps more important than the change itself. 

This paper covers a study that interviewed healthcare management professionals on change in their organizations. What were the characteristics identified with creating successful change?

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Because the healthcare field is particularly susceptible to change, having a general understanding of change management in your career stack is useful for navigating the unknown within your healthcare organization. This article looks at the fundamentals of change management and lays out some guidelines for how to successfully implement change within your organization.

Social Determinants of Health

Social determinants of health refer to how the places where people live, work, go to school and spend their time have an impact on people’s quality of life and health outcomes. Spend some time on the CDC’s page about social determinants of health to learn more about current research and statistics and to familiarize yourself with policies and tools to put that data into action for the betterment of our communities. 

Many hospitals and other healthcare organizations are increasingly focusing on SDOHs, which you can read more about in this article. What is your perspective on how healthcare facilities and social services can work together to improve community health outcomes? 

This article directly addressed racial inequities as having an impact on the health of individuals and communities. While this can be a politically charged topic, it is one that is being had within the healthcare field. As a healthcare manager, it is therefore important for you to be versed in the subject. 

This webinar from the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation provides information to help understand the overwhelming impact of systemic racism on the health and well-being of Black Americans, how this impact affects our society at large, as well as addressing some actionable paths toward change. How familiar are you with the intersection of health and race? From what was discussed in the webinar, in what ways do you see this conversation impacting your role as a healthcare manager?

Reorienting the Industry

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The COVID-19 pandemic obviously had a deeply significant impact on the healthcare industry. From healthcare delivery options to shortages of supply and from financial repercussions to burnout, healthcare management jobs faced acute challenges.

As the United States and the rest of the world, hopefully, begin to come out of the pandemic, the healthcare industry has an opportunity to reorient itself. There are some lessons and changes from the pandemic that will likely hold and others that will be shed; to determine which is a job facing many healthcare managers. 

Here is an article that covers some of the changes and issues facing the healthcare industry as it emerges from the pandemic from a technology lens. As you read, consider how healthcare managers can help balance the need for continued innovation with the uncertainty of the future.

Investment Opportunity

The ongoing rate of change in medical and health services is rapid and far-reaching. As a healthcare manager, it’s important to stay caught up on new trends, challenges, and reforms in the industry and understand how they might impact your staff, patients, and community. One source of information is the National Institute for Healthcare Reform, which conducts objective policy and research analysis of healthcare in the United States. You can read their work here.

Opportunities in Healthcare Management

Expanding Telehealth

Telehealth is using telecommunications and electronic information to provide remote, clinical healthcare, and while it was expanding prior to 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic opened the floodgates. Telehealth increases access and convenience for patients, especially those in rural areas or who are not able to travel to a clinic. It also reduces preventable readmissions and helps with prevention and early intervention. And because the number of patients a practitioner can see in a given period increase with telehealth, so do billable hours, but not necessarily at an increased cost to patients. 

This webpage from the CDC discusses further benefits of telehealth, in particular in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. But as you read, take note of what aspects improve patient access in ways that might continue beyond the pandemic. 

Take note of how telehealth has intersections with social determinants of health as you watch this webinar.


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The concern regarding cybersecurity in healthcare is increasingly common, in part due to the rise in telehealth, although security threats come from other areas as well. The healthcare industry faces a variety of cybersecurity threats, such as ransomware, email scams, data braces, and DDoS attacks. 

As a healthcare manager, it’s important to understand your role in prevention, as well as during and after a cybersecurity attack or threat. This report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response outlines readiness and response considerations for healthcare managers. 

To get a better idea of the cybersecurity landscape in healthcare and the policy considerations that go with it, watch this webinar from Boston College. From a healthcare management lens, it is important to understand security, privacy, and proposed legal changes to things like HIPPA. What can you, a healthcare manager, do to comply with regulations and protect your systems and data?

Staffing Shortages

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing shortages in healthcare were a growing concern. These shortages aren’t confined to one type of healthcare role either. There are many reasons for this shortage – from the low pay for many nurses and support staff to the lack of parental support structures to the mental health challenges. Additionally, as baby boomers continue to age and require more care, the number of skilled healthcare professionals entering the field just isn’t enough to keep up with the increasing demand for care. 

The CDC has some recommendations for addressing staffing shortages. As a healthcare manager, what do you think of these suggestions? Are they reasonable? Are they sustainable? Do they help get to the root causes of the shortages?

This article discusses some areas with the most dramatic staffing shortages. Knowing this information, how might that shape your policies, planning, and systems as a healthcare manager?

Investment Opportunity

Consider this course through Erasmus University from Coursera on cybersecurity in healthcare. This is a beginner-level course that will take you about 15 hours to complete. The course looks at both the practical and theoretical aspects of cybersecurity in healthcare.

Healthcare Management Stack

Earning Your Degrees

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As we’ve discussed, there are many different career paths in the field of healthcare management, and opportunities abound. But a necessary starting point is your educational background. To be a healthcare manager, you’re going to need at least a bachelor’s degree, but what you major in can vary, depending on the career track you’re interested in.

A bachelor’s degree will help you land an entry-level role in healthcare management or healthcare administration. Although, for some facilities, a bachelor’s degree will help you into a mid- or senior-level job right off the bat. This tends to be true for those smaller or mid-sized organizations.

At some point, you’ll likely want to earn your master’s degree in healthcare management, health administration, public health, or the like. Or you could consider a master’s degree in public administration with a concentration on healthcare management or an MBA in healthcare administration. A higher degree will open doors to high-level roles, which have the benefit of higher salaries but also come with a higher level of responsibility. While a healthcare management degree, particularly a bachelor’s degree, is an important starting point, many employers want healthcare managers with master’s degrees. 

PayScale gives some detailed information on the role of a healthcare manager. It will give you a general picture of the current outlook in this career, as well as what some career trajectories might look like in the field. 

Professional Organizations

Something that can be of help when it comes to getting a job in healthcare management is being part of a professional organization. Membership shows potential employers that you’re committed to the field. But, practically speaking, they often have job boards, career-planning tools, and networking opportunities for members. The American College of Healthcare Executives, which we talked about earlier, is one such example of a professional organization you could join. 

If you’re interested in more of the policy side of healthcare management, you can explore the National Association of Health Underwriters. To get a feel for their work, check out their podcast, Healthcare Happy Hour. 


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When considering your degree, you might want to take a look at the nonprofit Association of University Programs in Health Administration. AUPHA’s goal is to improve health services worldwide by educating healthcare managers.

For healthcare management professionals, it’s the place to go to learn about the top bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs in the United States and Canada. Members of AUPHA has members at over 300 higher education institutes. In fact, many employers and graduate schools will look to see if your degrees come from an AUPHA-accredited program. 

To get a feel for AUPHA and to get inspired by your work as a healthcare manager, check out this webinar on the importance of innovative leadershipOr explore their other student webinars

Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education is another nonprofit organization to look to for accredited and highly regarded graduate degrees in healthcare management. The two organizations have a close relationship.

Investment Opportunity

If you’re looking to take a dip into the world of healthcare management education, consider taking a course or two through Coursera. They have everything from fundamentals to continuing education. Since the field of healthcare management is so vast, this can be a great way to get a feel for what direction you might want to take in your career while building a helpful healthcare management stack in the process. 

What are some challenges that Healthcare Managers are facing today?

Although your desire to be of service within the medical field, management does not come without its disadvantages, unfortunately. Here are some points to consider:

  • Navigating regulatory changes, such as the Affordable Care Act
  • Increasing health care costs and decreasing reimbursement rates
  • Improving the quality of care and patient safety
  • Managing a diverse set of stakeholders, such as patients, physicians, and payers
  • Leveraging data analytics for decision-making
  • Implementing the use of digital health technology and cybersecurity threats
  • Focusing on preventive care and population health
  • Developing effective teams and managing human resources
  • Addressing the opioid crisis and mental health challenges
  • Dealing with rising equipment and materials costs, as well as pharmaceutical prices
  • Addressing health disparities and widening access to care

To Wrap Things Up:

  • Health services managers play an integral role in patient care, as well as healthcare administration and healthcare facility management.
  • Healthcare management jobs are on the rise. The field of health information management projects a 17% job growth rate. So, now’s the time to take advantage of additional training to get the job you deserve in health services management.
  • Learning about healthcare management teaches one about medical billing, insurance claims, strategic planning, quality assurance, and other day-to-day operations.
  • Health services managers work in various settings. They work as clinical managers, health information technicians, and medical office managers in organizations such as hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, nursing homes, healthcare clinics, medical records departments, government agencies, human resources, and other medical facilities or aspects of healthcare systems.
  • The average annual salary for healthcare management is $101,340 per year, depending on experience. The highest 10% earned upwards of $205,620 annually.
  • If you are interested in a degree in healthcare management, a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree program will give you the accolades you need to excel. With a degree in healthcare, you can’t go wrong!
  • Often, healthcare management professionals work long hours and on nights and weekends, as needed.
  • On-the-job experience can be obtained through internships.
  • This is the end of our free online course to help you develop your healthcare management talent stack. We hope it gives you a great foundation to build on.

Written by: Tammie Cagle

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