Healthcare Schools Online – Call the Shots on Your Career

As demand for healthcare services continues to increase, it takes a specially trained person to run the oft-overlooked position that some people don’t think much about – that of a healthcare manager. That’s where healthcare schools online come in: they offer courses that train a person to be management material when the time comes for a promotion or a new job. Healthcare managers are the brains behind the operation and they ensure that things run smoothly. Healthcare schools online are a great resource for a person that needs the training, but may not have the convenient hours that other less demanding jobs can afford.

Those in healthcare management keep the day-to-day operations of any type of patient facility running efficiently. They make decisions on patient healthcare and treatment. They also work in conjunction with nurses and other administrative workers to ensure that the quality of healthcare is up to regulations and medical records and reports are accurately kept or given. These men and women must always be ready for new healthcare implementations – anything from new technology to new methods of patient care. They are typically very busy and may be called upon at all hours for advice and/or assistance in a problem. They also travel to attend healthcare conferences, or to meet with the government or private affiliates and owners of a company.

Healthcare managers work in all sorts of environments. Anywhere there is a facility that treats patients, no matter old or young, in-patient or out-patient, there is a manager that makes sure everything is carried out in a respected and efficient manner. Managers can work in hospitals, for example, but there is probably one that works in every ward who also answers to the manager in charge of the entire hospital. In a nursing home, there is one main manager, and a few managerial assistant managers to help keep the workload manageable. This type of management system is seen in all aspects of healthcare.

On a day-to-day basis, the variety of people whom a healthcare manager works with is vast. They work with nurses and nurse’s aides, medical recorders and information analysts. Every day brings a whole pack of problems to solve, but also an equal amount of reward. A great hospital with satisfied patients and workers is a sign of a great healthcare manager, who at the end of the day, is a people-person that aims to make everyone happy while keeping care effective and up to standards. Healthcare managers also have to answer to their own bosses. They must attend conferences that inform and advise them on new and effective ways of managing and on the developments that constantly happen in the healthcare industry.

Getting into this oft forgotten administrative job usually requires a master’s degree at minimum. It can be in healthcare administration, but there is also a combination of other degrees that could put the candidate in the right spot for a promotion. This could be an MBA with combined experience in the nursing field, for example. Another good example is experience and an advanced degree in a specialized field, combined with a graduate certificate in healthcare administration.

This combination of degrees and experiences places a candidate in a good position. Another common route is earning the Masters in Healthcare Administration (MHA) through an accredited college. Nowadays, more people than ever are turning to the benefits of healthcare schools online to gain this degree. With the work load and schedule of a normal healthcare employee often times unusual and demanding, many, if not all, healthcare employees would not be able to attend a traditional ground school without having to cut hours (something they may not want to do for financial reasons). Healthcare schools online offer healthcare management degrees at the graduate level for these ambitious, but time-pressed, individuals.

By earning your healthcare management degree online, you’ll prepare yourself for an exciting and rewarding career in healthcare management. It’s definitely as demanding as the nursing or patient-care professions, but it has other added benefits like seeing employees succeed and having your place of employment ranked well amongst others. Healthcare schools online is a great way to earn a degree that will have a lasting impact on your career and ultimately, the well-being of others.

Consumer-Driven Healthcare Will Not Solve Our Healthcare Problems!

How would an extra $5000 or $10,000 in additional expenses fit into your family budget? The consumer driven healthcare plans that were created as part of the Medicare overhaul legislation in 2003 by the Bush administration can result in high out-of-pocket expenses for medical care which is equivalent to a tax increase.

Consumer driven healthcare has two financial parts: High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA).

High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) tend to be less expensive than traditional health insurance coverage, but the out-of-pocket expenses are higher. People may obtain HDHP through their employers or buy them independently from insurance companies. HDHP have a minimum self-only deductible of $1050 and family deductible of $2100 and maximum out-of-pocket expenses of $5250 for self-only coverage and $10,500 for family coverage for 2006. These high deductible plans compare to the most common type of managed-care plan offered by employers that has an average annual deductible of $323 for a self-only policy and $679 for a family policy, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health research group. Traditional health insurance plans, on average, also have much lower out-of-pocket expenses (copayments and coinsurance that you pay after the deductible has been met).

The second part of Consumer Driven Healthcare is Health Savings Accounts (HSA) that can be set up through banks, insurance companies or other financial institutions. People can invest each year up to the amount of their health plan’s deductible, and some employers contribute to their workers’ accounts.

Unless employers contribute to an employee’s HSA to cover these high deductibles, these accounts result in a huge cost shift from the employer to the employee for most people with a traditional health insurance plan that includes a lower deductible. In addition, these HDHP may have higher out of pocket expenses (copayments and coinsurance). According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, among employers who offer HDHP, relatively few (19.5%, or 3.9% of all offering employers) also make a contribution to a HSA.

Critics of these HDHP such as Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund (a private healthcare foundation) states that high deductible, consumer driven plans may undermine the two basic purposes of health insurance: to reduce financial barriers to needed care and protect against high out of-pocket burdens for patients.

We cannot blame the employers for providing these HDHP because they are trying to provide healthcare coverage for their employees while healthcare costs continue to soar. A 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation survey revealed health insurance premiums increased an average of 9.2% in 2005, down from the 11.2% average found in 2004. However, since 2000, premiums have gone up 73%, and the annual premiums for family coverage reached $10,880 in 2005, eclipsing the gross earnings for a full-time minimum-wage worker ($10,712).

Many companies cannot afford to offer health insurance and are dropping this benefit for their employees. The North Carolina Institute of Medicine found in its Safety Net Task Force report that the number of people in North Carolina with an employer-based healthcare plan dropped between 2000 and 2003 from 67.4% to 58.5%, a huge drop in a short period of time.

Accompanying High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) are Health Savings Accounts (HSA) that includes an annual tax deduction for money deposited into these accounts which function like a 401-K Retirement Plan allowing the funds to grow tax free. These funds may be used to pay for medical costs and will level the playing field between those who buy their own insurance and those who get it tax-free from their employers according to the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank.

These HSA would be most attractive to the healthy and wealthy, extracting the healthy and lower cost employees from group insurance plans and drive up costs for traditional health insurance plans that cover the less healthy people who need healthcare coverage the most. According to MIT economist, Jonathan Gruber, adding a tax deduction for buying high-deductible health insurance to the tax advantaged HSA would result in 1.1 million currently uninsured people obtaining coverage who are mainly the more affluent people that would enjoy the tax breaks these HSA provide. However, the changes would lead to 1.4 million people losing their employer coverage including the less affluent.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, for a family making $180,000, a $1000 contribution into a HSA would reap a $433 tax subsidy. However, if that family makes only $15,000, the subsidy would total only $153. In addition, low income families are not likely to have spare money to deposit into these HSA or be able to afford expensive insurance policies, and consumer driven healthcare (HDHP) and (HSA) will, therefore, not solve the problem of the 46 million uninsured people in the Untied States.

The idea of these HSA is to encourage Americans to assume more of the responsibilities and risks of their financial security instead of relying so much on government- and employer-sponsored health plans. Because people are paying for medical care out of their pockets, these plans are supposed to encourage people to become better medical consumers, purchasing only care they need.

Another problem with consumer-directed care is that the evidence indicates that people do not make wise decisions when paying for medical care out-of-pocket. A study by the Rand Corporation found that when people pay medical expenses themselves rather than relying on insurance, they cut their consumption of health care, but they cut back on valuable and questionable medical procedures.

Perhaps the biggest objection to consumer driven healthcare is that it misdiagnoses the problem because in healthcare 80% of the healthcare costs are consumed by only 20% of the patients. The 2004 Economic Report of the President condemned the fact that insurance currently pays for many events that have questionable value such as routine dental care, annual medical exams, and vaccinations, and for low-expense procedures such as an office visit for a sore throat. However, excessive consumption of routine care or small-expense items cannot be a major source of health care costs because these do not account for a major share of medical costs. The problem with healthcare costs is not routine office visits for a sore throat and other small-expense items. The problem with high healthcare costs is for the high cost procedures such as coronary bypass operations, dialysis, diabetes, and chemotherapy. These high cost procedures are driving up healthcare costs, and nobody is proposing a consumer directed healthcare plan that would force individuals to buy a large share of extreme medical expenses, such as the costs of chemotherapy, out-of-pocket. This means that consumer-directed healthcare cannot promote savings on the treatments that account for most of what we spend on healthcare.

Perhaps President Bush and his healthcare policy advisors are taking target practice from Vice President Cheney because they are not even aiming at the target. Controlling healthcare costs means addressing these high cost procedures, controlling excessive utilization, and implementing disease management programs. Disease management programs target high cost patients with medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and kidney failure. In addition, employers are adopting wellness programs to encourage healthy lifestyles including attacking the obesity problem.

Alternative programs include a national reinsurance plan by the US government that would cover 75% of any employee’s medical bills that are in excess of $50,000 in one year. Other proposals to deal with our healthcare problems include expanding Medicare for everyone, insuring everyone and requiring everyone to pay into the system.

Getting everyone to pay for healthcare would tackle the huge cost shifting problem in healthcare and should help to control health insurance premiums for those people that currently have health insurance. Cost shifting occurs when patients do not have health insurance coverage to pay for their medical care, and their healthcare costs are shifted to those patients with health insurance. You may have seen an example of cost shifting on a hospital bill that includes a charge of $7 for an aspirin or a band aid.

The Bush administration’s plans for consumer-directed healthcare are a diversion from meaningful reform and provide a tax haven for the most affluent Americans. These plans are like having an air conditioner that works when the temperature is 65 degrees, but are less effective as things heat up.

Healthcare Revenue Cycle Outsourcing – A Problematic Paradox

Historically, the drivers of change in healthcare have been focused on clinical advancements. Applying innovative strategies in healthcare finance and revenue cycle management have lagged significantly behind clinical progressiveness.

Unlike corporate America’s general financial sectors like credit card processing and accounts receivable collections, healthcare finance and business office operations have been slower to adopt the cost-effective improvements offered by the outsourcing of billing and collection accounts.

Recently, due to economic factors and the shifting of patient financial responsibility, healthcare executives have become more accepting of revenue cycle outsourcing initiatives. In spite of a looming paradox, which pits opposing goals against each other, maintaining fiscal health versus the political pressure of keeping jobs in the local community offers a continual balancing act for healthcare executives.

Gartner Research Inc. estimates healthcare executives spend about twenty percent of their budget on all categories of external sourcing options, compared to the general mainstream industries, which typically invest about a third of their budget on external sourcing.

Gartner also estimates that seventy percent of healthcare organizations who do choose to outsource meet or exceed their cost-savings expectations, and most see an improvement in services as they shift their non-core functions to outside experts.

Healthcare outsourcing in general has begun to see a significant rise in acceptance. During the next five to ten years, it is estimated healthcare will see an increase in the outsourcing of many financial, clinical and business processes.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (economic stimulus package for the U.S. economy), healthcare reform, and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), will create significant opportunities for all outsourcing companies to aid healthcare organizations in meeting the requirements for the new set of regulations and requirements mandated by legislative action.

These industry changes will increase outsourcing demand because healthcare providers cannot efficiently implement these changes on their own and certainly not at the speed they want.

Historically, physicians, hospitals and insurance payers with larger footprints and decentralized organizations were the first to initiate outsourcing partnerships. Smaller organizations typically relied on internal resources or in limited cases, local outsourcers.

This trend is changing. All sized healthcare organizations are jumping on the outsourcing bandwagon and are moving toward leveraging IT, clinical and revenue cycle business processing outsourcing to improve the financial viability of their operations.

The motivators for the shift in strategy for smaller healthcare operations are due in part by the margin pressure they are under and the need to cut costs. The key ancillary benefits to an outsourcing strategy are operational efficiencies, cost reductions and delivering superior patient satisfaction.

Healthcare executives have numerous sourcing strategies from which to choose. Utilizing a US based local, regional or national outsourcing company has been the typical choice for healthcare executives who outsource.

With today’s technology, especially in the services’ sector, it is less important to contract with a local provider than to choose the best-in-class provider regardless where their business operation is located.

In the US, outsourcing, in general, has become a polarizing political issue driven by poor economic times and localized job losses. Even with local and national pressure to curtail outsourcing activities by consumer advocates, the return on investment (ROI) from cost reductions and improvements in quality have influenced healthcare executives to pursue offshore and onshore outsourcers as an alternative to maintaining an internal workforce.

Over the past ten years, the providers who have chosen their outsourcing partner wisely, and partnered with qualified process oriented firms, have experienced reduced operating costs and ultimately, higher patient satisfaction encounters.

Americans value the financial opportunities offered by our free-market economy. In every region of the country, community leaders attempt to support and protect local labor forces, which serve nearby businesses. The goal of this action is to keep jobs in the community and surrounding area.

Unfortunately, with budget cuts and margin pressure becoming greater than it’s ever been, healthcare executives cannot meet the demands of managing various clinical and revenue cycle functions, which typically demand a lower cost, more qualified and educated workforce.

The healthcare executives who have avoided non-localized outsourcing have succumbed to the local pressure of keeping jobs within their community regardless of the impact on the financial performance of the health system.

An interesting paradox exists as those same executives and community influencers do not think twice about purchasing clothes, food products, electronics, cars, toys, furniture, and household goods produced globally.

Regardless of the task, business segment or location of the potential outsourcing firm chosen to provide services, the ultimate goal of pursuing any outsourcing strategy is to support the goals of the healthcare organization, which are ultimately to serve the community with the highest level of patient care. That cannot be accomplished if the organization is under financial duress.

Many top healthcare thought leaders are now accepting outsourcing as a cost reduction and operational improvement strategy designed to combat legislative reform and the economic squeeze the healthcare industry is experiencing.

In general, outsourcing saves time, effort, demands on infrastructure, manpower, and money. By leveraging the best of breed solution providers, healthcare organizations gain a competitive edge guaranteeing endless benefits for the enterprise and the patients they serve.

How Can a Healthcare Professional Use Social Media to Grow Their Business

Social Media: Opportunities and Dangers

With social media, healthcare providers have many tools at their disposal to help build their businesses. Social network sites can be a powerful tool in the hands of persons who know how to leverage it to its full potential. When social media is misunderstood or misapplied, it can turn into a time sink where many hours that could have been spent more productively in other ways to build your business. Since social media is easily misunderstood, it will help to clarify some of those areas.

One of the things that makes it confusing is that social media uses terms that people often assume they understand, like ‘networking’, yet in the realm of social media, it has very different meanings.

Social Media and Meetings

With 128 million people using the internet in the US, the way of reaching people and being relevant to their needs has changed. This means that the way of doing business has changed as well. The public now consults their phone for the best buys on products and services. They are also using their phones to purchase items. The changes in the way business is conducted also impacts healthcare.

Social Media offers many tools that you as a healthcare professional can use to build your business. With the use of social (interactive) media, the nature of business building has changed. Social network sites provide an interactive way of dealing with potential clients. In previous generations, the relationship between a healthcare provider and potential clients was limited to one way interactions dominated by the healthcare professional. Today, the patients talk back to you using Facebook, email, twitter or some other service, asking questions and want you as a healthcare professional to be responsive. If you provide good service, they can tell others, if your service is lacking, your reputation suffers much faster when they use social media.

In previous generations, any kind of marketing consisted of ads telling about the services provided and contact information. If the healthcare professional had social skills, they may even engage in networking as a way to develop their business. In previous generations, networking consisted of joining local business promotion groups in the local community. A healthcare professional typically joined the Chamber of Commerce, local professional group of their specialization, a business group like the lions or rotary or if they are really adventurous, toastmasters.

With social media, the groups that an aspiring healthcare professional joins have changed. Sure, there are still some of the old groups used in previous generations, which can be used. Social media provides more options. There are physician only sites like Sermo.com, which are a social media site devoted to only physicians.

In other healthcare areas, professional groups like the American Psychological Association and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy have developed their media presence. This allows the old professional groups to have a new place to meet on the internet.

In addition to those groups, there are groups on social media sites, themselves. LinkedIn has many professional groups on its site, as does Facebook. These groups vary by specialty. There are groups on oncology, depression, healthcare professional support, etc. Such groups often provide forums where you can discuss issues of concern to yourself as the healthcare provider. I recall a recent lively discussion on the existence on Sexual Addictions on LinkedIn, where healthcare professionals addressed the issue from many different perspectives. These provide a place to find out the latest information and to stay in touch with colleagues.
These groups provide a forum where healthcare professional meet and connect with others sharing similar interests. This is a new application of old style social networking. The networking that occurred at monthly or annual meetings is now available on a daily basis. Meetings and relationship continue remaining an important essential for a healthcare professional to develop in building their business.

The New Networking and New Challenges

Social media is changing the application of the term ‘networking’ in new ways. With social media, the healthcare professional is faced with the new dimension when you have to deal with interactive media. In previous generations, building a practice involved the use of static media. With social media, the relationship between the healthcare provider and client becomes interactive. It is no longer one way with the healthcare provider telling the public that they are the expert and the patient has to accept that. Now the public talks back to you, wanting evidence of your expertise, caring and empathy. In the past, you could get away with just ‘being the healthcare professional’. In the age of social media, they want to know something about Dr. Jane, or Jack the therapist.

With the new application of ‘networking’ including the interaction with the client, healthcare professionals are in new game. The clients now ask questions and interact with them in an environment where the healthcare provider is not the one in control. The healthcare professional and the potential clients now share control. Potential clients now ask questions and engage in social interactions that did not exist ten years ago. With social media, the potential client is empowered.They know more and want more than they did ten years ago.

With social media, today’s patients often self-diagnose before seeing the healthcare professional. In one study 81% of respondents indicated that they expect to find help on the internet, including medical help. This means that the public is going to the internet, and its social media for their healthcare help including self-diagnosis. In one recent study 47% of those seeking medical information also made self-diagnoses. This practice is becoming so prevalent, there is a tendency to refer to Dr. Google. One of the big challenges related to this information is is that the public is not always verifying the veracity of information they obtain.

Not only are the public going to the internet looking for help, they are often diagnosing themselves with the information they have access to. Dr. Bryan Varabedian said “Information is the new third party in the exam room”. (Dr. Varabedian maintains a blog addressing the convergence of social media and medicine.) Healthcare providers building their business now have to deal with patients having and using more information.Some of the information is good, while some is not from proven sources. Another challenge is when patients have the right information but are using it in an unorthodox manner.

With patients knowing more, they have begun to self-diagnose their presenting issues or problems.The whole idea of patients daring to self-diagnose is seen as threatening by some healthcare professionals. In Texas, a physician’s group has sued the Chiropractors, podiatrists and family therapists because they dared to diagnose clients. This is a far cry from Pennsylvania, where all 277 of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) sent out e-mails, offering digital house calls. In that state, some patients receive a diagnosis without seeing a doctor (or any healthcare professional) in person or even speaking to one on the phone. It remains to be seen how those healthcare professionals will respond to patients diagnosing themselves. Today’s social media savvy patients also present with more information and ask more informed questions than previous generations. Healthcare professionals now have to be prepared to deal with this challenge of patients having a knowledgeable voice in their healthcare decisions. The patients of today do not always go along with healthcare choices, just based on your word. They may also compare your information with what they find on the internet. This means the healthcare professional needs to provide good information and be on top of the latest trends and developments in their field.

The input of patients in healthcare decisions has great potential in improving the quality of healthcare. By using social media, the patients are not only making informed choices, they are speaking out. With patients having a voice, the healthcare providers who listen to their voices and respond will be seen as the expert. This means that healthcare will have to become more responsive to patients overall if they want their business to thrive.

Potential patients also want to know about their healthcare providers. When patients are often limited as to who the patient can see, when the patients do have some choice, they often have questions and want to interact with the provider. Social media provides a way for them to “get to know” their healthcare provider. Providers that learn how to use social media in dealing with patients will be ahead of their competition. Those providers will also need to develop written “social media policies” in dealing with those patients. Healthcare providers using social media will need to be clear concerning the boundaries between themselves and clients, specifying what information they will share about themselves and their accessibility.

In using the new social media, the public is now going to Facebook or Google to find help before they go to the yellow pages. This means that healthcare providers who do not have a social media presence will be passed over. They will not even by considered by potential patients that are seeking out healthcare.

The Importance of Social Media

When millions of people are using social networks, those healthcare providers who choose not to be a part of it by exercising ‘social media abstinence’ are missing out on the changing way that people interact. Healthcare professionals who choose to avoid social sites altogether are crippling themselves. The public now use them extensively. Whether in the use of their computers or phones, or both, it is a reality. Social media has changed the way people interact in the marketplace.

Dr. Ross Speck, who researched social networks back in the 1970’s saw the changes coming. He stated, “If the psychotherapist is to maintain a healing relationship with human beings in this predicament [social change]-if he is to be of value in relieving distress-he has to innovate”. Although Dr. Speck’s comments were directed at psychotherapists, it has application to any healthcare professional in practice today. It is becoming important for healthcare providers to know how to use social media, or hire someone for them who does.

Dr. Ken Cohn MD, has observed the importance of the new media and medical practice. He often addresses this subject. He sees the time for healthcare providers to act on social media is now, “…because physician leaders over the next 2 years will influence patterns of care delivery for the next 25 years”.
Social media is also a way for an aspiring healthcare professional to compete with much larger competition, whether it be from other people in healthcare, publishing or speaking. Using social media removes the size advantage that some exploit in providing healthcare.

Dr. Ken Cohn who has pioneered collaborative work between physicians, hospitals and patients has used the new media to present the message of his work to others. In promoting his book, “I see social media as a great equalizer.” He has seen social media improve the quality of care for hospitals. He has also seen how he, with his book could compete with larger publishers using social media.

Social media also allows the little person just starting out to make a name for themselves. A highly responsive healthcare professional can establish a name for themselves with the public rather than always having to be dependent on the power brokers of established practices.

Social sites are is changing healthcare, including how healthcare providers build their practice. It changes how clients find them, interact with them, and services are delivered. It also changes the way that healthcare providers will find potential patients. Knowing how to use and master social media is critical for any healthcare professional wanting to build their business in today’s social media saturated culture.

Social Media Tools

Once you as a healthcare provider has a social media policy, you need to use the tools available. Below are some of the social media tools and ways they can be used by a healthcare professional in building their business.

Facebook: Facebook is the largest social community. With increasing frequency, people search Facebook for their needs. You can have business page to establish awareness of your business. Given the size of Facebook, it is critical that the healthcare provider have a page in order to remain relevant.

LinkedIn: This social site allows healthcare professionals to network with other professionals. 80% of small business owners in one 2011 survey report using LinkedIn. Having a profile will let others know that you are in business and lead to important business leads. Building a business often involves joint ventures. LinkedIn is a way to find potential partners for joint ventures.

Twitter: This site provides a platform to keep people informed of “what is going on”. The public often likes to know about what is new. Keeping them informed as to events and new items coming out. In the US, 13% of the population online use twitter.

Digg: This news site can be used to develop a following for healthcare providers.

Google: Although not often seen as a social media, it has many functions that involve social interactions. This is where people look for services. Having a good Google ranking can make a difference in your business visibility.

Once a healthcare provider has visibility, they will need to use social media in interacting with their potential clients.

The healthcare provider can use these tools for announcements, patient education, answering frequently asked questions, dealing with common healthcare issues, and healthcare topics that would be of interest to them.

Summary of how to use social media

To sum up how a healthcare professional can use social sites to build their business the following steps can be taken:

1. Network with other professionals and people in the local community.

2. Provide good patient information. Become a resource. For example, if you are a chiropractor, you could write a series of articles, blog posts, etc. on exercise, health eating, how to lift heavy loads, etc. With each article, it would enhance your expertise in the eyes of potential clients.

3. Have a written social media policy, then use social media to promote your business.

4. Interact on social sites regarding questions and concerns. Be willing to answer questions and make yourself accessible on such sites. You can use them to post interesting articles, videos, etc.

5. Know how to use social sites to their full potential. Social media has many opportunities. You can set up a blogtalk radio show, have regular episodes on your own YouTube channel, have book club on LibraryThing. You are limited only by your own imagination in reaching out to clients and provide good quality patient care.

6. Let the community know that you are accessible on social sites. Include your twitter address, or Facebook logo on your advertising.