Both an aging population and expanded access to health insurance have expanded the healthcare industry, and increasingly, the complex healthcare system is looking to healthcare consultants to advise on everything from big picture management strategy to tactical operations.
As with consulting in any field, healthcare consultants strive to help organizations cut costs and increase revenue through better, more efficient practices. Healthcare consultants drive this process improvement by partnering with a healthcare organization’s administration and leadership teams to uncover problems and offer ways to solve them.
Healthcare Consultant Job Duties
To provide big-picture solutions, healthcare consultants must take on a variety of duties. First, to understand an issue, they must:
- Interview personnel
- Conduct onsite observation and job analysis
- Analyze interview and observation data
- Analyze business data
- Plan studies of organization work and information flow
Then, to create solutions to discovered problems, healthcare consultants:
- Prepare research reports
- Develop solutions based on data
- Present recommendations to stakeholders
- Partner with organization staff to implement new processes or systems
Healthcare Consultant Salary and Job Growth
Given the growth of the healthcare industry, healthcare consultant roles are anticipated to see substantial growth in the next decade, with an anticipated spike of 20% by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Not only is the system overall predicted to grow, but with advances in technology, healthcare is expected to become increasingly complex, driving demand for skilled professionals who can navigate and streamline this complexity. For example, growing adoption of electronic health records mandates improved organization, management and process improvement within departments that use or keep these records.
Hospitals are a key client for healthcare consultants, along with pharmaceutical firms, government agencies, medical device companies, payers and other healthcare organizations. As a result, demand for this role often centers in large metropolitan areas, which tend to be denser with these potential clients.
Healthcare consultants generally garner a median annual wage of $98,350, according to the BLS, and may earn salaries as high as $176,130. Typically, consultants at hospitals tend to command the highest salaries. Salaries and job market conditions vary by geographic region and other factors, and all job seekers should conduct their own research.
How to Become a Healthcare Consultant
Healthcare consultants generally focus on four main areas: strategic management (which was 36.8 percent of revenue in 2015, according to Becker’s Hospital Review), financial management and operations, human resources (HR) and benefits and IT strategy. Less common focuses may include marketing, equipment planning or overall management of a practice. This diverse lens means no one educational path is required for aspiring healthcare consultants; however, a bachelor’s degree is a baseline requirement.
Healthcare consultants focused on business elements of an organization might not need medical training, but would benefit from operational, management, finance or HR expertise. On the other hand, healthcare consultants who are tasked with improving outcomes and efficiency should have a background in patient care.
As a result, the right education path to pursue depends on the arena for consulting. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) may help provide expertise in the industry. To improve competitive advantage and earn more senior-level opportunities, professionals can pursue a master’s degree, generally either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Master of Business Administration (MBA) – or a dual MSN/MBA degree.
Regardless of a business or patient-oriented focus, healthcare consultants should possess several critical skills:
- Analysis and critical thinking allow consultants to draw conclusions from data collected and make recommendations.
- Math skills equip healthcare consultants to analyze revenue, budget, and other financial information.
- Active listening supports quality interviewing and accurate understanding while assessing an organization.
- Decision making skills support making and implementing recommendations.
- Communication skills arm the healthcare consultant to interact with a variety of roles, ranging from technical, to healthcare professionals, to key hospital executives.
As healthcare continues to expand in size and complexity, skilled healthcare consultants will be called on to streamline processes and increase efficiency to the benefit of the healthcare organizations and the patients they serve. For those with the right skillset and degree, this can be an exciting and rewarding position.