Posted by Cheri O'Neil on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 - 07:15
First and foremost, running a successful healthcare organization involves saving and improving lives, and promoting quality care and patient satisfaction. But, since it’s also a business, success requires solutions to keep operations running smoothly, too. That’s where people in healthcare finance jobs come in.
For insights on what’s ahead in this industry — for the accounting, finance or revenue cycle professionals who work (or want to work) in healthcare finance jobs, and for the managers who hire them — we turned to Kevin Erickson, executive director of the Robert Half Healthcare Practice.
Changes on the horizon
What trends do you see in the healthcare industry that will affect employment in the accounting, finance or revenue cycle categories?
Kevin Erickson: The biggest thing right now, of course, is our new presidential administration. All we know is there will be more changes in the already-dynamic healthcare industry, and with that will most likely come extra work. Skilled accounting, finance and revenue cycle professionals will most likely be needed to navigate this change.
Additionally, the need to reduce the cost of care while increasing quality is probably the primary challenge for most of these organizations. It will take accounting, finance and revenue cycle support to find and execute cost-effective solutions. Looking ahead, there could be an increase in mergers and acquisitions, a shift from “fee for service” to a value-based reimbursement model, and an even-greater need for big data skills.
Continued employment growth
Why is it that this industry is expected to have more employment growth and create more jobs than any other sector between now and 2024?
Kevin: The increase in employment is directly tied to the growth of the healthcare industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest report, employment in healthcare rose by 43,000 in December, and the industry added an average of 35,000 jobs per month in 2016.
I believe these three factors are contributing to the industry growth:
- A larger aging population that needs more medical services
- An increase in the number of people who have insurance coverage
- The need to adopt and manage healthcare compliance
A closer look at healthcare finance jobs
What functional roles are in the greatest demand?
From an accounting and finance perspective, it would be senior financial analysts, financial analysts and staff accountants, and, in the revenue cycle, medical billing professionals, denials specialists, medical collections specialists and payment posters are most in demand.
Not only are those roles in demand, but Robert Half’s latest Salary Guide shows pay ranges for medical billers to medical collections specialists and medical billing managers are expected to increase from 3.7 to 4.0 percent in 2017.
Getting started in healthcare finance
What advice would you give to a candidate looking to break into this field?
Kevin: Industry experience is often preferred but not always required for your first job. One way to break in is to get involved with professional organizations specific to healthcare and start building a network.
Let’s say you know that reducing the cost of care is a major initiative. If you provide examples of how your skill set could help a company accomplish that goal, I think that would be a very good differentiator during the interview.
Gathering information about what’s happening in healthcare can help you in the job interview process. Let’s say you know that reducing the cost of care is a major initiative. If you provide examples of how your skill set could help a company accomplish that goal, I think that would be a very good differentiator during the interview.
Technical skills such as knowledge of Microsoft Access or Excel are also a plus. Strong technical skills will position you better than someone without them. Another thing to consider is when organizations implement new technology, they need to get staff up to speed as quickly as possible. If you have an opportunity to be part of a project team where you could become a subject-matter expert in one or more areas of technology, the experience can be valuable throughout your career.
What about potential career paths?
Kevin: Healthcare in general offers a dynamic career ladder for people to climb. Within the revenue cycle, you might come in as a medical billing professional, work your way up to be a supervisor and then become a manager, director, even vice president of revenue cycle, for example. It’s the same type of career progression for accounting: staff accountant to accounting manager, controller, director of accounting, CFO — or, on the financial side: analyst to senior financial analyst, manager, director, vice president and CFO.
There are a lot of different areas and positions in healthcare that can make for a progressive and lasting career.
Regulations and well-being
In what ways is the work different in this sector than in traditional business settings? How is it the same?
Kevin: Beyond the specific nuances that exist in every industry, for healthcare organizations, providing great care is paramount, and there’s a level of connectedness to someone’s well-being that probably feels very different than providing retail customer service or creating a widget within another industry. The work that you’re doing in healthcare often is not only going to help the company be successful but also impact the care that an individual might receive. I think that gets lost on people sometimes.
In comparison with other industries, there’s more regulation in healthcare that you’re constantly adapting to and managing. From a technical perspective, the amount of data that has to be collected, managed and used to increase revenues for a healthcare business is a bit more pronounced in this field than in others.
Advice for hiring managers
What qualities should you seek in candidates?
Kevin: Healthcare organizations should look for people who are analytical, who can process a lot of information and data, who have the ability to identify trends and patterns that would allow for better performance. They should also try to find those who are naturally curious, who ask, “Why is this happening here but not over here?” and then are able to dive in, figure out what’s happening and take action on it.
Should you be on the lookout for specific credentials or degrees?
Kevin: We see people with all sorts of educational backgrounds who find themselves in healthcare finance-related jobs.
Whether you have a high school diploma, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree, there are positions available in healthcare. Some of the most common degrees we see for those in healthcare finance-related roles are accounting, finance, healthcare administration, mathematics and economics. As you advance in your career and take roles of increasing responsibility, it may be required that you have an advanced degree as well.
Robert Half’s specialized staffing
How would you describe your job with the Robert Half Healthcare Practice?
Kevin: I help us determine how to effectively partner with clients and candidates in the healthcare industry and to ultimately provide them a very positive experience with a dedicated team who truly understands the skills they bring to the table as a candidate or the business objectives they are trying to accomplish as an organization. Robert Half has served the healthcare industry for years, and we’re committed to being the go-to partner for specialized administrative, accounting, finance and revenue cycle talent exclusively for the always-dynamic healthcare industry.
Kevin Erickson is executive director of the Robert Half Healthcare Practice.