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The Academics of Healthcare

Today’s healthcare executives and leaders must have management talent sophisticated enough to match the increased complexity of the healthcare environment. Executives are expected to demonstrate measurable outcomes and effectiveness and to practice evidence-based management. At the same time, academic and professional programs are emphasizing the attainment of competencies related to workplace effectiveness. The shift to evidence-based management has led to numerous efforts to define the competencies most appropriate for healthcare. Today, executives in all healthcare settings must navigate a landscape influenced by complex social and political forces, including shrinking reimbursements, persistent shortages of health professionals, endless requirements to use performance and safety indicators, and prevailing calls for transparency. Further, managers and leaders are expected to do more with less.

In an environment of escalated public demand, it is only logical to question the competence of healthcare leaders and managers. The emphasis on measurable outcomes and competencies did not happen overnight. The widespread acceptance of evidence-based medicine was a natural precursor to an evidence-based approach to healthcare management. Also, the development and promotion of competencies for graduate medical education set the stage for healthcare administration. The questions now becomes, have mid and senior-level managers been keeping pace with changing demands? Are healthcare academic programs attracting sufficient numbers of students and adequately preparing them to operate effectively in this dynamic environment?

To meet the needs of healthcare administration, a number of university programs have developed a set of competencies for their students. These various programs typically use a similar process for developing their competencies: existing competency literature is reviewed, subject matter experts (either faculty or practitioners) are approached to provide depth and content validity, and a survey of practitioners is conducted. In other words, academic programs take steps to ensure that their competency models are tied with the realities and needs of healthcare management practice. However, little evidence shows a link between actual performance and competency attainment, an area that clearly needs more attention as competency models continue to develop.

The amount of change in the delivery and structure of health care in the United States is paralleled only with the change in the roles of professionals (clinical and nonclinical) who manage the many types of health service organizations that exist today. Entry to midlevel employment opportunities awaits university graduates who successfully complete a program that integrates knowledge of behavioral, biomedical and social factors impacting individual and population health. In addition, students with an understanding of general business and health services marketing concepts and principles have an even greater advantage in the workplace.

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