Courses to Take and Skills to Learn in a Healthcare Management Degree Program
First and foremost, a healthcare management program is about exploring how to contribute to a better quality of life for patients in need. However, it takes intense coordination among many different individuals across numerous technical systems to provide quality care for even one patient, and the necessary skills and knowledge involved may seem overwhelming.
In order to provide better care for patients, you need to know how to better do your part in the complex healthcare system. With so many different ways to work toward the common goal of outstanding patient care, how do you know what courses to take and skills to explore in a healthcare management degree program, and which ones could help you improve the quality and range of care you hope to provide?
Below we break down some of the core courses of the healthcare management program at AIU, how they can help you prepare to offer better care in a number of medical settings, and some fundamental skills you should focus on developing while you're working toward your degree.
Core Healthcare Management Courses at AIU
Each degree program has a selection of core courses all students must take in order to create a strong foundation of knowledge upon which to build in later classes. Because healthcare management is such a complex field, AIU students must become familiar with a broad range of material throughout 10 core courses:1
- Introduction to Healthcare
- Health/Public Policy
- Legal and Ethical Environment of Business
- Principles of Accounting I
- Financial Management
- Survey of Healthcare Management
- Risk Management in Healthcare
- Quality in Healthcare
- Healthcare and Human Resources
- Research Methods for Healthcare
These courses provide students a comprehensive overview of the many intertwined areas and aspects of the healthcare system, from policy and regulations to quality-of-care assessments and institutional management strategies.
Part of the reason it's so important to have a strong, broad knowledge base of how the healthcare system functions is that this can help you better understand your specific role within it. More importantly, it can help you develop a clearer vision of how your actions and responsibilities may influence the other aspects of the system, ultimately contributing to the overall quality of care for a wide range of patients.
This solid foundation of core knowledge also can provide you a better context for the skills you hope to develop while working toward your healthcare management specialization. Within that specialization, you can take courses that delve more deeply into topics such as gerontology management or health services administration management.
Important Healthcare Management Skills and Experience
Much like the material covered in core courses, there is a wide range of important skills to study in a healthcare management degree program. The following skills are not only important to the ongoing operation of many healthcare institutions, but also may help those institutions to provide more efficient, high-quality patient care.
This means that while not all of the skills listed below relate to interacting with patients directly, they can help make a big difference in how quickly and efficiently a patient receives care.
Understanding of Business Process and Planning
Medical institutions from private doctors' offices and local clinics to large hospital groups and insurance companies have to manage increasing patient needs alongside complex financial and regulatory challenges.
For this reason, it's important to spend some time developing a strong understanding of how such organizations function, as well as the role administrative work plays in their continued operation. In addition to being relevant to many healthcare management positions, the ability to help plan and prepare for new and changing institutional needs can result in more patients being helped faster.
From a doctor's office being able to accept new patients to a hospital scheduling and processing medical tests faster, strong administrative skills can make a tangible, long-term difference in patients' lives. Labor market information company Burning Glass lists business administration, business process, and process improvement among the top 10 most desired skills among those with a healthcare management degree in 2015.2
Whether it's through a few relevant business-related courses, extracurricular collaboration with business students on a project or two, or an internship, it's helpful to get some administrative experience before graduation.
Communication and Organization
Providing prompt, quality healthcare requires communication between numerous offices and medical departments as well as doctors and nursing staff, and all of this behind-the-scenes communication ultimately has an effect on the patient. This makes it incredibly important for healthcare professionals at both patient-centered and administrative levels to have strong written and verbal communication skills.
The ability to stay organized while juggling several different communication chains at once can also make a huge impact on how quickly a patient may receive care—especially in common situations where doctors and nurses are awaiting test results, confirming a patient's medical history, or attempting to process admittance or release forms.
Medical and Privacy Laws and Regulations
The laws and regulations governing how medical institutions provide and bill for care, as well as store and share patient information, change frequently and are subject to a wide range of factors.
While it may seem like such regulatory information doesn't have an immediate or direct impact on patient care, it is important to ensure that all patients' confidential data is safe and secure. From preventing personal information from being shared against a patient's will to ensuring prompt access to necessary data for hospitals and other approved parties, compliance with privacy regulations are an important aspect of the healthcare process.
Knowledge of public health and safety laws and compliance procedures can be useful in a range of settings and situations. Whether you're helping a single small doctor's office keep their patients' files secure and in order, or you're developing updated systems for use in large hospital networks, an understanding of how privacy laws impact the healthcare system can make a big difference to many people.
Keep in mind that you also have a network of instructors and advisors at your disposal—if you have more questions about what courses to take and skills to study in healthcare management, don't hesitate to ask for advice.
Ready to learn more? Explore healthcare management degree programs at AIU.
1. Specific courses are subject to change. Visit the AIU catalog at http://aiuniv.smartcatalogiq.com/en/current/Catalog at for the latest program curriculum.
2. "Specialized Skills in Greatest Demand." Labor/Insight (Burning Glass Technologies), 1/1/15-12/31/15.
AIU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Find employment rates, financial obligations and other disclosures at www.aiuniv.edu/student-disclosures.