Walking the fine line between healthcare and business


As healthcare and hospital systems have become increasingly privatized, the questions around them have become louder. Doctors and nurses ask ‘What does an entrepreneur know about running a hospital?’ Patients raise concerns like ‘Aren’t these private hospitals just trying to make the most money off people that come in to be healed?’ Questions like these are valid in many ways. What does someone who has an MBA know about medicine and patient care? Should patients be worried that they will be hit with excessive medical bills because hospitals want to make huge profits? It is understandable why people have these fears. However, there are a surprising number of benefits to approaching healthcare from a business perspective.

Having the right people in place

The first step to successfully marrying healthcare and business is to have the right leadership in place. It takes uniquely trained individuals to run a professional hospital that doubles as a successful business. If this is a position that interests you, a great place to start is by enrolling in a healthcare administration course at the University of Ottawa. The university offers unique degrees in the health administration space, specifically with its online Executive Master of Health Administration program. This program gives its students the context required behind what is important in healthcare and what is needed at a high-functioning hospital. On top of this foundational knowledge, students are armed with the business strategies needed to run an efficient and profitable healthcare system. The more people who have this dual expertise, the stronger the marriage between healthcare and business will be.

Once the right leadership has been established, it is time to assemble a sound staff. Having business savvy behind your hiring process will greatly benefit both healthcare workers and patients. For any business, it is important to bring in and keep the best talent in the industry; this also applies to healthcare systems and hospitals. A business is only as good as the employees who help keep it running, and it is invaluable for hospitals to have a team of well-trained employees.

For patients, this means that when they are admitted, they can expect the very best care. They do not have to worry about having a poorly trained professional treating them, which is a harsh reality for many patients admitted to hospitals today. It gives many families peace of mind that their loved ones are in good hands, which is invaluable to them.

For healthcare workers, this means that they can expect very competitive wages. This can be said for all doctor, dietician, and nursing roles. It costs a lot of money to attract top-tier talent and keep them, but this is a necessary expense that many hospitals are happy to pay. Having such employees in place leads to more people seeking care at your hospital, as they know through reviews and word of mouth that it is the best place to go. As such, these hospitals that take the same approach to their business as many tech companies and this puts them in a better position to succeed.

Technology and analytics

The world is becoming increasingly data-driven, and more decisions are made based on analytics. Healthcare is no exception. Hospitals must keep up with the times, and this means ensuring that they are equipped with the best tools and information. A huge component of a successful relationship between business and healthcare is the adoption of improving technology and analytics. This adoption is driven by healthcare business leaders, and its sole intention is to improve the lives of staff and patients.

Technology covers a broad range of infrastructure. This includes software, cyber security measures, machines, database structures, and more. There is no need to dive into all these subtopics as patients and hospital employees are most impacted by machines and software tools.

Machines include the medical equipment found in hospitals as well as machinery; EKG machines, for example. Medical technology is ever-evolving, with game-changing equipment hitting the market almost daily. With such strides being made, it is important for hospitals to have the latest equipment and continually invest in it. Having the best tools at the healthcare workers’ disposal helps them do their jobs more effectively and with more precision. This frees up more of their time for other tasks of higher importance, like patient care and research. Having up-to-date machinery also minimizes the chances of mistakes being made, which can be very costly to a hospital. There are many talented professionals out there, but they can only help so much if they don’t have the right tools in place. That is why business professionals must drive investment and innovation to ensure their hospital is as successful as possible.

You might be wondering how software plays into this equation. How could a platform possibly help healthcare workers and patients? In more ways than you might think. There are many kinds of healthcare software out there – some that allow for telemedicine appointments, as well as booking in-person appointments with the doctor of choice, for example. These are great options for patients to have at their disposal, making the healthcare process much more accessible and easier to digest.

In hospitals and healthcare systems, the most versatile and useful tool to have in place is EHR software (electronic health records). These platforms are one-stop shops for healthcare workers, where they can quickly take patient notes, look at previous medical history, track lab results, and so much more. Eliminating the need for handwritten or physical copies of records, everything a doctor or nurse needs to do their job can easily be found in one location. The flexibility of this software also allows healthcare workers to do their jobs more quickly and efficiently. If someone comes into the emergency room in critical condition, doctors can swiftly pull up their records so they have as much information as possible. In life-and-death situations where time is of the essence, doctors need to know as much as possible to give the best treatment possible. If a patient’s records indicate that they have a history of seizures, the doctors can quickly process this and narrow down what next steps to take in this emergency scenario. These software platforms truly impact how well healthcare workers can treat their patients.

Separate but related to technology is the analytics and data science field. Analytics departments are very common in organizations today, whether they be manufacturing or banks. Healthcare administrators must recognize the value that analytics can bring to their hospitals and ensure that it is properly adopted throughout the entire organization.

Hospitals have an immense amount of data available to them, and few hospitals know what to make of it all. Like the leaders of any other large enterprise, healthcare business leaders can pinpoint areas in their healthcare system where they can utilize their data properly. As an example, let’s say a hospital has issues with scheduling. They schedule more employees than needed when the hospital is not busy, and do not schedule enough staff members when the hospital is packed. Having either situation happen too often can lead to many other issues. Through a well-coordinated analytics project, it is possible to optimize a hospital’s staff schedule down to the minute, to always have the optimal number of staff working. You can avoid losing money from over-scheduling, and ensure you have enough workers on hand during busy days and shifts. This is one of the endless applications of the practice of analytics and data science.

It is hard to imagine technological improvements or analytic adoption taking place in healthcare systems without individuals looking at their organizations from a business perspective. Investing in new machinery and adjusting your practices based on what the data reveals can boost hospital profits, just like they would for any manufacturing plant. Another great reason to make this happen is for the impact it would have on hospital employees. Making the lives of your employees easier and their work more efficient will give you a satisfied workforce who are doing their jobs to the highest of their potential. It is easy to deduce that when this happens, patient care and satisfaction are improved dramatically, and more money can be made. What business would not be happy with that?

Philosophy and strategy

It is no secret that healthcare workers are extremely busy individuals, between checking in with patients and completing administrative work. Imagine the look on their faces if you asked them to develop a corporate strategy for the next 10 years and focus on hospital philosophies across all departments. They would probably get mad at you for asking! But just like any business, it is important to have a vision and standards in place to achieve your goals. But who in the healthcare system would undertake such a tall task? Bring in (once again) our trusty healthcare administrators, who can use their business intuition and take a bird’s eye view of the organization and come up with the best steps to take now and in the future.

Ever since COVID-19, businesses have taken steps to become more flexible in case of unforeseen roadblocks. For hospital systems though, this has been even more challenging time given how overrun hospitals are or were nationwide. As one can imagine, it is difficult to juggle these competing priorities. That is why it is important to have leaders in place who can enact policies that make them more adaptable. What this business philosophy entails is responding to changes by following a predetermined plan but having procedures ready for emergency scenarios. This allows organizations to be resilient and stable in times of crisis. Healthcare workers’ lives will not turn upside down in times of calamity, and with the right personnel and procedures in place, healthcare systems will be able to keep operating.

Equally as important as a business philosophy is a proper business strategy. Hospital systems cannot stay stagnant with so many people depending on them for their healthcare needs. They need to continue to innovate and grow, but this is impossible if the leadership does not have a vision for their hospital. Having a sound strategy for continued success is vital. Maybe leadership wants to build a new cancer research center. For workers, this means more employment opportunities, and cancer patients have more advanced treatment options available to them. The groundbreaking work that would take place in this new cancer center could potentially change the lives of the cancer patients. Applying a business strategy to any healthcare system can greatly benefit health workers, and means better care for patients.

It is clear that approaching healthcare from a business perspective can bring about so much good. At the end of the day, healthcare administrators want to improve the lives of their courageous staff and patients. The goal of healthcare is to make sick people better. That cannot be accomplished if the doctors and nurses are ill-equipped, unhappy, or overworked. Enhancing the lives of patients starts with enhancing the lives of the employees. When employees are in an environment where they can thrive, the patients they care for will also thrive. While it may be a tough concept to accept, running a healthcare system from a business standpoint is better than any other approach out there.