Although healthcare administrators do not typically have direct patient contact, their decisions and actions significantly impact patients’ experiences. They help shape policy, make changes and consider external factors to manage healthcare organizations.
Individuals who enroll in a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) program can explore innovative methods for managing healthcare operations and cultivating positive patient outcomes.
Why Is the Patient Experience Important?
Over the past decade, the healthcare industry has gradually shifted toward a patient-centered model of care — an approach considered a best practice today. This means that a patient’s preferences, needs and values help drive care and treatment decisions. Patients reviews and outcomes ride heavily on the services that hospitals and other healthcare facilities offer.
“With the internet, consumers are more informed than ever before [and have] the tools to check an organization’s performance on crucial clinical standards as well as patient satisfaction,” said Kristin Baird, MHA, BSN, RN and president and CEO of Baird Group, a healthcare consulting firm based in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. “That transparency — along with feedback on Yelp, Google and other sites — gives the consumer a voice to evaluate their experiences very publicly.”
Patients are consumers too. They expect clinical competence, Baird said, and they assess this by critiquing their overall interaction with the facility and staff. “Did the receptionist look up, smile and greet me when I walked in the door or were they engrossed in their phone? Did the physician sit, make eye contact and speak in terms I understood or did they stand with his hand on the doorknob?” Baird said.
“This is what patients will remember and talk about. Healthcare administrators must orchestrate everything about the people, processes and place in order to ensure a consistent experience. Their brand depends on it.”
What Are the Primary Responsibilities of Healthcare Administrators?
Healthcare administrators work in a variety of organizations, including hospitals, long-term care facilities and outpatient clinics. Still, their general responsibilities remain largely the same, often intersecting with patient care regardless of location. Those responsibilities may include:
- Directing and overseeing facility operations
- Forming the organization’s mission, values and strategic direction
- Creating staffing guidelines and human resource policies
- Developing programs and services for employees, patients, and community outreach initiatives
- Managing budgets and fiscal expenditures
- Establishing partnerships and joint ventures with other organizations, such as coordinating vaccination clinics with the local department of health
How Can an Administration’s Decisions Impact Patient Care?
Every decision made by healthcare administrators can impact a patient’s care and experiences. “Hospital administrators are the ‘keepers of the culture,'” Baird said. “It is up to senior administrators to set the strategy that ensures the organization lives up to its mission, vision and values at every touchpoint.”
For example, suppose an administration wishes to improve communication between staff and patients, so it establishes a policy requiring employees to introduce themselves to every patient and explain their role in the patient’s care. After the policy is implemented, the administration discovers that employees aren’t consistently following it. If nothing is done to address the lack of compliance or revise the policy, the inconsistent results could negatively affect patient encounters.
“A great patient experience begins with great leadership,” Baird said. “Administrators must clarify expectations and hold everyone accountable for delivering a consistently positive patient experience. In addition, they must also provide the resources needed and give recognition to those who go above and beyond. Finally, they must set a standard for excellence and address anything or anyone who does not uphold the standard. What you permit, you promote.”
Creating Positive Patient Experiences
UNCW’s online Master of Healthcare Administration program exposes students to healthcare administration’s many facets including strategies in management, capital, operations, informatics, marketing, ethics and legal issues, evidence-based decision-making and healthcare economics.
From developing an organization’s strategic direction to overseeing the facility’s financial assets, healthcare administrations significantly affect patients’ experiences. By understanding their influence, administrators can foster a more positive care environment for patients and employees alike.
Baird, K. (2020, December 21). Email interview.