The Business Side of Healthcare: The Role of Non-Clinical Healthcare Jobs

Dec 19, 2023 | Online MS in Management: Healthcare Administration

With today’s rising healthcare costs, the focus on patient well-being extends far beyond an examination room. While clinicians are the cornerstone of direct patient care, healthcare is full of non-clinical careers that play pivotal roles in ensuring holistic and comprehensive support for patients. 

“There’s a growing recognition in the industry that non-medically related determinants of health drive a majority of overall population health outcomes in the United States,” says Craig Johnson, a part-time lecturer at Northeastern’s Khoury College of Computer Sciences and Chief Science and Technology Officer at Decision Point Healthcare. “Addressing these types of determinants will require us to invest more resources into non-clinical products and services.” 

In addition, with the rise in technology in the healthcare space, there’s a growing need for business-minded professionals to help clinicians leverage best practices for optimal results. 

If you’re interested in learning about how you can make a difference in the healthcare industry without pursuing a career as a practitioner, here’s an overview of how non-clinical jobs can elevate the patient experience and why you should consider a career in the business side of healthcare. 

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Types of Non-Clinical Healthcare Jobs  

According to Johnson, professionals from nearly every background can participate in healthcare. And while the conversation around healthcare jobs often focuses on the opportunities on the clinical side, there are numerous non-clinical career paths that still make a difference in patient outcomes.

Data Analytics 

Healthcare data analytics job titles focus on the analysis and interpretation of health data. They utilize various data mining techniques, statistical analysis, machine learning, and other methods to examine large volumes of data within the healthcare system. 

 Data analytics plays a pivotal role in healthcare, providing the information needed to identify potential patient risks, gaps in care, and recommendations on interventions that might address those risks. This can improve organizational decision-making, optimize operations, and enhance care. 

For example, analytics can aid in monitoring and evaluating treatment effectiveness, ensuring patients receive optimal care while minimizing adverse events and complications. Some of the most common job titles include:

  • Healthcare Data Analyst 
  • Healthcare Data Scientist 
  • Health Informatics Specialist 

 Understanding and harnessing healthcare data analytics is critical in navigating today's complex healthcare landscape, driving advancements, and, ultimately, improving patient outcomes and overall system efficiency.  

Healthcare Management

Healthcare management is a vital non-clinical role in any healthcare related organization. It involves overseeing the administrative, operational, and strategic aspects of a healthcare organization to ensure high-quality, cost-effective care is delivered to patients. 

As a result, healthcare managers play a pivotal role in the business side of healthcare by optimizing processes, such as resource allocation, to enhance an organization’s ability to address individual and population needs. 

Some common job titles in healthcare management include:  

  • Hospital Administrator 
  • Health Services Manager 
  • Clinical Manager 

While most of these positions work at healthcare facilities like hospitals and physicians' practices, George Moran, an executive adjunct professor at Northeastern University’s School of Business and College of Health Sciences, urges aspiring healthcare managers to widen their search to include non-traditional settings as well. 

“Think about CVS,” says Moran. “They now compete with physician practices with their Minute Clinics. How do local physicians compete with that? How do they innovate? How can they do things differently?” 

Health Insurance

There is immense opportunity for healthcare professionals to work in health insurance. With the right guidance and experience, professionals in health insurance can have a huge impact on patient outcomes.  

For example, health insurance roles can contribute to shaping healthcare policies and advocating for changes that enhance access to quality care. They can also use their business knowledge to inform insurance coverage decisions, ensuring that patients receive appropriate and cost effective treatments and services.  

In addition, health insurance employees can act as a liaison between patients and healthcare providers, helping them understand their coverage, navigate the healthcare system, and access necessary treatments and services. 

Common job titles for healthcare professionals in health insurance business roles include: 

  • Healthcare Policy Analyst 
  • Contract Manager 
  • Utilization Review Coordinator 
  • Case Manager/Patient Advocate 

With the right training and background, these professionals can play a pivotal role in ensuring patients receive optimal care.  

4 Reasons to Work in the Business Side of Healthcare

If you’re interested in making a difference, but not sure if working in the business side of healthcare is the way to do it, here are four reasons why you should consider this exciting side of patient care.  

1. Helps Underserved Communities

Compassion is a huge component of going into healthcare. And while clinical jobs often attract professionals who are driven by a desire to help others, the same holds true for business-related careers as well.  

“I think a lot of people wonder whether non-clinical positions can be mission-focused in healthcare,” Johnson says. “I know many people on the business side of healthcare who are very mission focused. They may not directly interact with a patient, but they are involved in the provisioning of care for patients and populations as a whole. This means you can have a huge impact on the cost of care, access to care, and even patient satisfaction.” 

For example, Zipline—a San Francisco-based drone startup—revolutionized blood deliveries in African countries back in 2016. For decades, these rural areas struggled to meet the unexpected demands for blood transfusions due to a lack of temperature-controlled technology and well-established infrastructure. However, utilizing drone technology, the company was able to significantly cut deliveries times to 41 minutes or less—nearly an hour and half faster than deliveries via trucks. 

“Helping others through the business side of healthcare doesn't mean you need to become a social worker,” Moran says. “It means understanding things like how artificial intelligence can help a physician do a better job treating patients or how robotics can do a better job delivering supplies to a hospital floor.”  

2. Impacts Medical Costs and Access to Care 

Everyone talks about how much we need to decrease healthcare costs, but we also need to improve access to care and improve health outcomes. Clinicians can’t make this happen on their own. They need people who can help innovate new business models to finance care, prevent adverse outcomes with the right kind of care, and implement ways to reduce the complexity we all experience when navigating through the healthcare system.  

The business-side of healthcare plays a role in all of these goals. For example, information technology professionals support the implementation of telehealth services which has played a huge role in cutting costs by providing remote consultations, check-ups, and basic medical care remotely.  

This approach helps families save on expenses related to transportation and time away from work, while also reducing overhead facility costs by minimizing the need for physical clinic visits. 

“Technologists and administrators have a real opportunity to use informatics and analytics to improve the patient experience,” Johnson says. “It helps get patients more engaged in managing their own care including preventive care, which helps decrease the future cost of the patient later in life.”  

While the following might seem obvious, much of our healthcare expenses do occur later in life. According to the National Library of Medicine, nearly 30 percent of Medicare is spent in the last years of life. In response, many healthcare business professionals are working toward value-based purchasing which is shifting how doctors make decisions and recommendations for care from what the patient wants to what will provide the highest quality care at a lower cost. 

“As we move to value-based care and implement other complex business innovations, we need people experienced in operations, analytics, logistics, management, contracting, and many other non-clinical areas that can help implement and manage these innovations,” Johnson says. 

Business professionals in healthcare are an important component of this informed decision-making. They can think about aspects of healthcare operations more strategically, identifying where the opportunities are to improve patient engagement, patient satisfaction, and reduce cost. 

3. Promotes Innovation of Healthcare Technologies

While clinicians are focused on the immediacy of saving lives at risk, business professionals largely focus on the long-term wellbeing of the community. 

“Around 70 percent of our health outcomes in the U.S. are due to non-biologic, non-genetic, and non-medical factors,” Johnson says. “Some of these factors include things like the environment we live in, behavioral and mental health, and our social situation.” 

The industry has only begun to address these non-clinical factors. Some common obstacles include: 

  • Identifying risks related to these factors 
  • Establishing ways to engage with the patient 
  • Determining how to fund supporting resources  

We need people in non-clinical roles across the business spectrum to come up with ways to address these challenges. Part of the solution is the adaptation of existing technologies and the creation of new, innovative healthcare technologies.

Some examples of these services and products include:  

  • Electronic Health Records (EHR): Software systems that aid in the storage and management of patient health records that ensure a streamlined digital record. 
  • Assistive Devices: Products like wheelchairs, prosthetics, orthopedic braces, and assistive technologies that improve mobility and enhance quality of life for individuals with disabilities or injuries. 
  • Nutrition and Fitness Apps: Mobile apps focused on diet tracking, meal planning, fitness routines, and wellness coaching (e.g., MyFitnessPal, Fitbit, and Noom). 
  • Mental Health and Meditation Apps: Applications like Calm and Headspace offer meditation, mindfulness exercises, and mental health resources to address stress, anxiety, and improve overall well-being. 

These kinds of solutions allow clinicians and non-clinicians to better address patients’ health concerns and even predict when intervention might be needed.  

“There are a lot of really exciting solutions being built across the healthcare ecosystem within hospital systems and health plans, and by pharma and healthcare technology companies,” Johnson says. “While technologists might think healthcare isn’t the place to work on more advanced technology, there are several opportunities for them to leverage their skills.” 

For example, artificial intelligence (AI) is commonly used to create consumer oriented portals, digital messaging, predictive analytics, recommendation engines, smart navigation, and other capabilities across the industry. 

4. Provides Job Security

While working in healthcare is often a purpose-driven choice, the business side can also offer substantial job security.  

One reason for this is the rise in spending in healthcare. According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, healthcare spending in the U.S. grew nearly three percent in 2021, reaching $4.3 trillion—or $12,914 per person. This means the nation's health spending accounts for over 18 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

“Even if that cost goes down a little bit, it's an overwhelming amount of spending,” Johnson adds. “And with 50 percent of our healthcare funded by the government, you definitely have job security for the next 50 years.” 

In addition to a stable job, these positions are known to pay well as well. According to our analysis of job postings data, business jobs in healthcare earn a median salary of $91,000 per year, which has increased by nearly 40 percent over the past five years. 

Make a Difference in Healthcare

Making a difference in healthcare doesn’t mean you need to become a clinician. Professionals from nearly every background—both clinical and non-clinical—can leverage their experience, training, and education to make a difference in healthcare.   

“Even if your background doesn’t traditionally align with the industry, don’t let that stop you from working on something really cool, while making a difference in healthcare,” Johnson says.  

Northeastern University’s MS in Management: Healthcare Administration can help you make progress toward this fulfilling career. Depending on your goals, this advanced degree can equip you for roles in hospitals, insurance companies, nursing facilities, clinics, and more. 

“Northeastern’s program is intended to open your eyes to what the different possibilities are in healthcare,” Johnson concludes.     

Learn more about the program, how it aligns with your interests, and to see if you qualify to receive a $100 application fee waiver. 

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