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Outpatient care administration and management is a rapidly growing field. Before jumping into the evaluation of outpatient care administration and management, it’s important to understand the difference between outpatient and inpatient care prior to anything else. The general difference is that inpatient care refers to a patient staying at a medical facility overnight or longer, whereas, outpatient care allows greater flexibility in that patients can come and go according to their procedures and other medical care requirements. They may have to remain at the facility for most of a day or only several hours. However, the patient goes home the same day the procedure is performed.
The roles and responsibilities of outpatient care managers and administrators are similar yet slightly different from those of inpatient healthcare professionals with the same titles. One primary difference is that outpatient health care professionals typically handle less severe medical cases and are not required to monitor patients as closely as inpatient care professionals. And most inpatient care managers and administrators work in hospitals, while outpatient professionals might work in a variety of other medical facilities as well as hospitals. The primary exceptions to these statements being ambulatory and ER services.
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What is an Outpatient Care Administrator or Manager?
The duties and tasks of outpatient care managers and administrators will vary greatly depending on the type of facility at which they work and the specialization of the position. Outpatient healthcare managers and administrators can work in any type of outpatient care facility. Some people might work in clinics or labs. Others might work at nursing homes or physical or mental health rehabilitation centers. It is even possible to work in non-traditional areas such as corporate campuses, private schools, or hotels to develop a care plan.
Responsibilities depend entirely upon the position. However, regardless of the position, many general skills and tasks will be similar, including the requirements for an exceptional level of communication, an understanding of current regulations and laws, and a high level of patience and empathy. Some individuals will interact with patients directly and others will focus more on the care of team members and the business side of the organization.
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All outpatient care managers and administrators will be responsible for the direction of organizational initiatives, as well as patient care directives. It’s possible that individuals may work directly with nurses and doctors on various cases to improve upon efficiency, relay information in a timely manner, and oversee patient care in general. Administrators and managers may act as a liaison between the team and patients when they are not on-site, such as to connect health care social services with patients. They may also be required to establish or improve upon business practices. Leadership skills are another essential component to successful outpatient administration and management roles.
In leadership roles, managers and administrators of outpatient care will have responsibilities and demands that combine operations and health services patient interactions. Some roles require the monitoring of patients and records, as well as the implementation and upgrades of technology hardware, software, and services. These individuals often interact with suppliers of products and services as well, including insurance providers, outside treatment facilities, and referral medical professionals. Certain positions will require the management, creation and assessment of budgets, schedules, and performance reviews.
These managers and administrators will also be responsible for monitoring inventory levels of all products and equipment throughout the facility, including medications down to each individual pill. It will be necessary to report certain errors in inventory and staff behavior to the appropriate medical boards and even the authorities in some cases.
What is the Difference Between an Outpatient Care Administrator and Manager?
Managers and administrators in outpatient healthcare are not easily differentiated in some organizations. However, if an organization has both outpatient management and outpatient administrators, the distinctions are clearer. Generally speaking, outpatient managers assist with the day-to-day operations of the outpatient primary care facility. These individuals will be responsible for implementing policies and procedures, training, and disciplinary action while finding ways to create efficiency and eliminate redundancy and impracticality. Outpatient managers will also have to adhere to a budget in terms of team overtime, supplies, and operational expenses. It’s possible these individuals will need to interact with patients, as well.
Outpatient administrators have less patient involvement and more high-level organizational responsibilities. Some organizations use administrators to manage teams and even managers. These individuals will also make the final decision as to whether or not more team members are required to complete expectations as outlined by the administration. An outpatient administrator will have to report to a board or the owners of an organization and determine ways to make their visions and wishes a reality by utilizing the resources at their disposal. They may also determine which medications and treatments are made available to patients within their facility and advocate for new equipment or new technique training in order to improve patient outcomes.
What are the Educational Requirements for Outpatient Care Managers?
The educational requirements of outpatient managers and administrators is largely dependent upon the job, the organization, and the state or federal requirements. A bachelor’s degree is typically needed for any type of outpatient management position. Along with a bachelor’s degree, qualified candidates will also require state licensure to be able to work in various settings.
The type of degree necessary will also vary from employer to employer but may include health sciences, nursing, healthcare administration, business administration, health care management, or public health. A degree with a specific concentration, major, or minor may be necessary for more specialized positions. In the case of administration of a psychology department, a master’s or doctoral degree may be necessary along with additional licenses or certificates.
Some employers of smaller organizations may require less education in place of qualified experience. In a clinic, it’s possible that hiring physicians may also accept on-the-job training in place of degree completion. A registered nurse with several years of experience may also be qualified for promotions to managerial and administrative positions in certain circumstances.
Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare
An outpatient care manager is likely to require at least a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration. Students can choose from a variety of degree focuses including health sciences, healthcare administration, business administration, healthcare management, nursing, or public health. A degree with an emphasis or concentration in healthcare will be highly advantageous over a general business degree. However, it is not unheard of for individuals to enter the healthcare industry with a business administration degree.
The courses individuals take will vary based on the degree program. The following are a few examples:
- Principles of Public Health
- Social and Behavioral Health
- Environmental Health
- Advanced Policy Analysis
- Public Health Law, and Ethics
- Occupational Health
- Public Health Financial Management
- Grant Writing
Most outpatient management positions will also require experience of at least a few years. This could be work experience as a manager or in the healthcare administration field.
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Master’s Degree in Healthcare
Master’s degrees in healthcare administration are often a minimum for an outpatient care administrator, as they are for many management positions. The type of master’s degree one should pursue depends on the type of administration one wishes to attain such as public health, nutrition, health care administration, health informatics and analytics, healthcare policy, occupational therapy, health services, or healthcare technology management. Each concentration makes the program participant highly qualified for a specific type of outpatient care administration position.
The following are a few examples of courses one might take at the master’s degree level in these types of degree programs:
- Principles of Management & Leadership in Healthcare
- Human Resources Management in Healthcare
- Health Law and Ethics
- Health Care Finance
- Health Informatics & Data Analytics
- Strategic Planning & Marketing in Healthcare
- Healthcare Economics and Policy
- Medical Sociology
- Organizational Behavior and Theory
- Health Care Business Innovation & Entrepreneurship
- Health Insurance and Reimbursement
- Quality, Patient Safety & Risk Management
- Healthcare Operations & Supply Chain Management
- Health System Case Management
- Online Health Services
It may not be possible to reach the level of administrator without experience in both leadership and the healthcare industry. Many individuals will begin as an outpatient care manager and pursue administrator roles to continue to grow within their field of choice.
Possible Careers in Outpatient Care Administration/Management
Roles in outpatient care management and administration are as wide-ranging as the types of medicine to practice. You could choose to work in a number of specialized areas such as pediatrics, physical therapy, geriatric medicine, maternity, and more. Other types of outpatient care are also available in more newly established fields, such as occupational therapy and nutrition or wellness.
- Outpatient Therapist
An outpatient therapist is a type of therapist who works with specific behavioral and cognitive methodologies. These therapists might work in substance abuse recovery facilities, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, group counselor settings, social work environments, private clinics, and many others. The primary role of these outpatient professionals is to provide empathy alongside superior interpersonal and communication skills.
Within these roles, therapists will perform client assessments, therapy sessions, and treatment recommendations. Individuals must have a master’s degree and state licensure. Minimum experience requirements will also be necessary to secure these positions, including potentially hundreds of clinical hours.
- Medical Director of Ambulatory Care
Ambulatory care is outpatient care in an emergency setting. The medical director of ambulatory care often works with a wide range of medical facilities to be able to provide the best possible care at all times including within subspecialty units, primary care facilities, retirement centers, hospitals, and more. These individuals will provide coordination and oversight of services, as well as training and supervision. Financials, inventory, budgets, and additional organizational administration duties will also be necessary, in addition to enforcing policies and procedures at a systemic level and ensuring all technology practices are current.
- Outpatient Physical Therapist
An outpatient physical therapist (PT) works with patients who require physical improvements from any number of complications such as an accident, disease or illness, brain damage, stroke, or any other incident resulting in physical impairment. It is essential that outpatient PTs also have training in mental health as individuals who undergo physical therapy often experience mental challenges as much as physical challenges.
These outpatient professions must have a calm, empathetic, and nurturing nature, as well as a strong and authoritative personality. This combination is essential to keep patients motivated yet not defeated. PTs might work from people’s homes, at hospitals or clinics, for nursing homes, at local fitness centers and many others.
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- Outpatient Care Manager
Outpatient care managers have a multitude of roles and responsibilities, particularly at smaller locations or facilities. These healthcare managers are typically responsible for the overall care of patients at their employer. These managers could work in any number of health care system facilities such as hospitals, medical centers, outpatient surgery clinics, residential assisted living facilities, and more.
As an outpatient care manager, these individuals will oversee team training and guidance, as well as implementing patient programs and creating operational efficiency. Collaboration and communication with other managers and departments are critical components of these roles, as well.
- Outpatient Services Director
The role of an outpatient services director includes high-level administration duties. These responsibilities will vary from employer to employer. However, many are similar including caseload coordination, staff management, hiring oversight, marketing approval, treatment plan development, outpatient referrals, risk management, and many others.
At this level, individuals will require both experience working in a health-related field and higher education. Many outpatient services directors will require a master’s degree and various licensure. The degrees and licensure required will be entirely dependent upon the employer and the state.
Certification or Continuing Education?
Certifications are typically not a requirement to secure outpatient care administration or management positions. However, many employers seek out candidates who take the initiative to complete specialized certifications as part of their continuing education. These certifications will also help to improve salaries more quickly and lead to higher incomes.
Certificate of Ambulatory Care
A Certificate of Ambulatory Care provides graduates with specialized education and experiential learning opportunities in public policy and health management of ambulatory care systems. This type of certificate prepares program participants to be able to work calmly, effectively, and efficiently in a stressful, complex, and fast-moving environment.
The challenging coursework will include a wide range of relevant and necessary subject matter including financial management of health services, human behavior in public organizations, problems and issues in the health field, and financial accounting in the public non-profit sector. At some higher learning institutions, if a person is already enrolled in a master’s degree program, they can eliminate many of the certification course requirements. This particular certificate does not typically require recertification; however, it is a good idea to complete the latest certifications every few years or so.
Certification for Health Informatics and Information Management
The Certification for Health Informatics and Information Management centers around innovation and evolution of the complex environments that are today’s health services. It has become incredibly essential that all information and data gathered about patients, employee details, supplier information, and equipment data remain protected at all times. This type of certification helps teach program participants the best way to do so.
A few of the skills one might develop include document integrity, information security, privacy and security, data analytics, clinical documentation, and big data. Because this field changes so quickly, recertification and certification maintenance programs are also available to ensure graduates remain current with existing best practices. This certification often leads to promotions and pay raises.
An outpatient care administrator or manager will require licensure if they work in certain work environments or fields, such as nursing homes or as a therapist, as well as if any positions have nursing or hands-on patient responsibilities. Any individual who works in psychotherapeutic positions will almost certainly require state licensure.
Licensing requirements are often based on the state in which you work, as well as the employer. These standards vary somewhat across the country, and in many cases, the licensure will require mandatory ongoing education hours to be met each year, recertification, and more. Some administrators and managers at nursing homes and assisted living facilities may also require licensure, for which the requirements also vary by state. Keep in mind that all of these positions will require an extensive background check due to the highly sensitive and personal nature of the positions.
Salary and Career Outlook
Projected job growth of 18% is anticipated for the field of medical and health services managers until 2028. It is also expected that many outpatient services that were once provided at hospitals will continue to shift to health practitioner offices within group medical practices. Over this time period, a master’s degree will become more and more essential for both outpatient care management and administration positions.
Another essential skill that is expected to become more and more necessary is for managers and administrators to have a solid understanding of technology in the healthcare industry and the importance of information security. Empathy and communication skills will, of course, remain essential. The average salary for a healthcare manager in the US is $65,234, according to PayScale.com. This figure often increases with the completion of more certificates and licensure and will vary depending on your location and experience level.