Role of Healthcare Management in a crisis like COVID-19

Bharat’s healthcare sector is projected to expand rapidly, with an estimated market value of US$ 372 billion by 2022. According to data released by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), hospitals and diagnostic centres attracted largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) US$ 6.34 billion between April 2000 and June 2019 making it the next sunrise sector, with massive opportunities and scope for growth.

While doctors are key to the sector, they equally play a significant role in many other ways: in ensuring hospitals operate efficiently, making them financially sound and independent; in creating a patient-centric organization that takes care of the patient experience beyond treatment into holistic approach.

Importance of Healthcare Management

Healthcare management involves ensuring smooth operations of healthcare facilities of all kinds, including hospitals, clinics, diagnostics labs, retail, insurance, drug addiction rehabilitation and treatment centres, and elderly care facilities like nursing homes and hospices. Healthcare professionals have wide-ranging responsibilities, including efficient management of day-to-day healthcare facility operations, ensuring timely availability and maintenance of medical equipment, developing organizational goals and priorities, determining budgets and billing practices, accreditation and quality standards, representing the organization to the public, the media, and other audiences.

Healthcare management involves taking care of administrative needs of a healthcare institution. There are several aspects to it like accounting, staffing, marketing, public relations, human resource management and many others. Healthcare managers are primarily responsible for delivery of healthcare services in an efficient manner to the patients.  Working for hospitals or clinics can be challenging and requires hard work, a lot of patience and leadership skills. One is expected to shoulder responsibilities such as maintenance of labs, administrative work and quality checks, material management involving the regular supply to doctors and nurses and other things.

Therefore, the work of healthcare management professionals is of particularly critical importance during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. They must manage healthcare facilities under enormous and unprecedented stress, as they attempt to maintain supply chains of essential equipment like testing kits, ventilators, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff such as N-95 masks, gloves, and respirators. They also must determine proper staffing levels and safety procedures to protect both healthcare workers and patients while delivering emergency care.

The public relations function of healthcare managers is also of heightened importance to maintain the flow of information about all the measures being taken. As a specialist in healthcare management one may be required to respond to various critical management problems faced by hospitals and other agencies under the health sector.

The work of a healthcare management professional is closely linked to healthcare administration, and in fact healthcare managers may take this role as one more addition to their numerous tasks. However, in larger organizations healthcare administration is typically a specialised job that interfaces more directly with the staff of the facility.

An administrator’s responsibilities include recruiting, hiring, and evaluation of personnel, determining efficient administrative procedures, and working with doctors and nurses to ensure they are able to provide health services effectively. Thus, healthcare administrators often serve as liaison between healthcare managers and individual employees who are responsible for actually carrying out the work of the facility.

Access to healthcare is critically important for society at all times but especially during a crisis like COVID-19, and healthcare managers and administrators with strong organizational skills play a vital role in these high-pressure situations to ensure these hospitals and clinics have the resources they need to be effective in their mission.

In addition to healthcare managers and healthcare administrators, there are a variety of other more specific jobs that fall under the rubric of healthcare management, including clinical directors, medical records managers, doctor’s office managers, healthcare practice administrators, and more. As COVID-19 has shown us, keeping healthcare facilities functioning during a crisis can be a challenge as it is a life and death issue, and it takes an entire organization of dedicated professionals working together to be successful.

While hospitals around the world are struggling to fight the COVID-19 pandemic with limited or unavailable supplies and equipment, some are forced to become creative and find new ways to continue care delivery and, at the same time, protect the staff. Experts say the virus would survive for several months after “flattening the curve” (slowing down infections) that Bharat aims to achieve through social distancing.

Technology in Healthcare

Physicians and other healthcare providers at hospitals are at a higher risk of COVID-19 due to direct contact with the patients. The physicians can use telemedicine services to manage the patients with COVID-19 remotely through remote access to the patient’s information, such as laboratory test results, chest radiograph and CT findings, and offering therapeutic measures based on these results to the nurses and other healthcare providers.

During this global pandemic, telehealth is emerging as an effective and sustainable solution for precaution, prevention and treatment to stem the spread of COVID-19. Telehealth is bridging the gap between people, physicians and health systems, enabling everyone, especially symptomatic patients, to stay at home and communicate with physicians through virtual channels, helping to reduce the spread of the virus to mass populations and the medical staff on the frontlines.

Hospitals can use more effectively technologies like Artificial Intelligence options to address the growing need for patient self-triage, including interactive voice response systems and chatbots to differentiate between those who might really be sick with COVID-19 and those who appear to be suffering from less threatening ailments. Beyond screening, AI is being used to monitor COVID-19 symptoms, provide decision support for CT scans, and automate hospital operations.

We have seen shortages of everything, from masks and gloves to ventilators, and from emergency room capacity to ICU beds to the speed and reliability of internet connectivity. The reason is both simple and terrifying: Our economy and health care systems are geared to handle linear, incremental demand, while the virus grows at an exponential rate. Our national health system cannot cope up with this kind of explosive demand without the rapid and large-scale adoption of digital operating models.

Digital health solutions can be effectively used throughout the entire coronavirus patient ‘lifecycle’, from triage and self-testing to quarantine and post-quarantine management.

Demand for Management professionals in Healthcare

If an individual wants to make a difference in people’s lives by ensuring the provision of high-quality health and social services, but don’t want to work directly with patients as a doctor or nurse, pursuing a career in healthcare management is a great opportunity. 

As COVID-19 has shown us, keeping healthcare facilities functioning during a crisis can be a challenge and healthcare management professionals have a major role to play in this regard. With the ever changing and ever evolving healthcare industry and with Bharat maturing into a healthcare destination, there are new avenues of career in healthcare for the Bharatiya youth both within the country and abroad.

Bharat can’t afford to restrict itself to a few weeks of emergency measures. It would have to think long-term and plan for future exigencies, infection prevention and control and preparedness for COVID-19 in healthcare settings, Intensive care management, something that calls for redesigning its healthcare system to respond to people’s needs. 

In view of the above, there is a potential demand for MBA in Healthcare & Hospital Management programme. This specialisation is a two-year post-graduation program which is offered in many reputed institutions across Bharat. The demand for management professionals in the healthcare industry is ever increasing and the program offers a plethora of job opportunities.

There are some universities and institutes in Bharat offering full time Master’s Healthcare and Hospital Management/ Hospital Administration programme including:

  • School of Management Studies, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad
  • Tata Institute of Social Services, Mumbai
  • Apollo Institute of Hospital Administration, Hyderabad
  • T.A. Pai Management Institute,Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal
  • Indian Institute of Health Management Research, Jaipur
  • International Institute of Health Management Research, New Delhi
  • Symbiosis Centre of Health Care, Pune
  • School of Management Studies, Punjabi University, Patiala
  • Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai
  • Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya, Indore
  • Chitkara Business School, Patiala
  • School of Management, Dr DY Patil University, Navi Mumbai
  • Amity University, Noida

Like every problem comes with an opportunity, post COVID-19 Bharat’s youth should sense the placement opportunities in healthcare sector and take up healthcare and hospital management and hospital administration courses so that they do not face unemployment issues. 

-by Dr. G.V.R.K. Acharyulu and B.N.V. Parthasarathi


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