Healthcare is constantly evolving. If you want to advance in your career in health leadership and work at the forefront of the broad changes sweeping the industry, obtaining a master’s degree in health leadership might be a good first step. This nonclinical degree, which combines advanced training in health, leadership and management, focuses on applying leadership skills to improve health outcomes for individuals, communities and populations.

Here’s where the healthcare industry is headed next—and how you can be a part of it.

The Rise of Value-Based Care

Many facilities in the healthcare system are shifting away from a fee-for-service, pay-as-you-go framework to one in which success and compensation are based on how well patients respond to each intervention. Healthcare Finance News notes that in 2017, payments related to value-based care reached 34 percent, up 23 percent from 2015. This rise in value-based services denotes an industry determined to change its ways. By personalizing approaches to deliver the right support at the right time, healthcare providers can maximize the health of the communities they serve.

But how do we know when an intervention is working? And how do we know that we’re using the right benchmarks to measure successful outcomes? Master’s-prepared health leaders are ideally positioned to use their healthcare experience and refined critical-thinking, analytical and communication skills to tease out the finer points of which interventions are working for which patients and why.

On an operational level, hospitals, healthcare startups, government agencies and other such organizations need healthcare leaders who are skilled in change management, care coordination and collaborative leadership to improve efficiency and cut waste. Master’s-prepared healthcare leaders are well-qualified to help health organizations streamline and enhance operations to improve patient care.

Promising Career Growth

Health-leadership graduate programs help people with leadership potential climb the ladder into management positions. Some jobs that may become attainable as a master’s-prepared health leader include managed care analyst, clinical director, home health agency president and provider network executive.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers in the United States earn about $99,730 a year. High-level healthcare executives can earn even more, especially in large organizations; the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that top executives in healthcare and social assistance net about $173,770 per year.

And there likely won’t be a shortage of jobs any time soon. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of medical and health services manager jobs will increase 20 percent by 2026.

Preparing for a Value-Based System

Although health leadership master’s degree programs aren’t clinically based, some schools require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree and some leadership experience in healthcare or a related field, such as nursing, policy, legal, military, pharmaceutical, biomedical or another healthcare-adjacent industry. Some programs will consider candidates who have clinical graduate degrees, such as a doctorate in medicine or pharmacy, or a master’s in social work.

Health leadership master’s degree programs usually include coursework in management, healthcare systems, financial management, health information technology and community health. These courses are designed to give burgeoning healthcare leaders a strong understanding of the nuances in the healthcare industry, such as finance, budgeting and direct patient care systems. As part of this all-encompassing focus, programs also emphasize technological proficiency, professionalism and ethics.

Some health leadership degree programs may also require a capstone project, which is a student-driven project, based on best practices and evidence, to improve care delivery.

Master’s-prepared health leaders are improving healthcare in measurable ways. If you have a deep passion for—and a keen understanding of—value-based care, you can build a strong, fulfilling career while helping healthcare organizations navigate the vital changes happening in American healthcare.

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