By Dr. Salvatore Barbera, DHA, MSM, FACHE

There is not a better time to pursue a career in healthcare administration. The industry is slowly emerging out of the peak of a pandemic with major healthcare organizations attempting to reestablish their highly successful brand. Many will define the healthcare industry as being unstable and searching for direction. Even though the hospital is the centerpiece of our system, the evolution of non-traditional players will threaten the focal point shifting away from the traditional hospital. Hospitals are under siege as the pandemic has promoted the acceleration of inpatient care out of the hospital to more treatment delivered in the home and ambulatory care centers. Ambulatory surgery centers continue an aggressive growth spurt with approximately 5,800 ASCs in operation today performing an estimated 30 million procedures, according to a May 2022 analysis by HealthLeaders which also projects that by the year 2030 more than 50% of joint replacements would be performed in ASCs. The activity in the ambulatory surgery arena will remain daunting and create a formidable trend as surgical procedures continue to move out of the hospital setting. One of the more significant trends impacting the industry, and hospitals, is the development of the acute care hospital at home. These programs on the rise and supported by CMS will offer acute care services delivered in the home and monitored by a hospital. Monitoring hospitals will provide several physical visits in the home a day from multidisciplinary staff. In addition, these programs will have 24/7 remote monitoring, ongoing daily video visits, and rapid response capabilities. These threats are not all that are targeted to impact hospitals and must be recognized. In a time when hospitals are coming out of a pandemic and desperately looking to restore financial footing, they are attracted to merger and consolidation opportunities. These options and moves by hospitals are being carefully monitored by the FTC as they enforce antitrust laws protecting healthcare consumers. In fact, recently the FTC thwarted a major consolidation in Utah that disrupted the planned merger of HCA and Steward Health Care based on its perceived anticompetitive posture. If this is not enough, the hospital price transparency rule went into effect on January 1, 2021 and requires all hospitals to report complete pricing data for common services. This initiative is designed to lower hospital costs by stimulating the healthcare consumer to shop around for various healthcare services. Only time will tell if this measure will indeed impact overall healthcare costs.

Non-traditional players are poised to continue to make a move in healthcare. Amazon has made a decision to buy OneMedical for almost $4 billion. OneMedical is a concierge primary care provider that operates 188 clinics in 29 markets. Amazon is not a shy company and will make noise in the industry and likely be a disruptive force. Four billion dollars is a significant investment suggesting this may be just the beginning. Walmart and CVS are proceeding forward with their healthcare agenda and could add to hospital woes in select markets. Finally, mega-entrepreneur Mark Cuban, recently opened his company, Mark Cuban Cost-Plus Drug Co. that presented CMS with a proposal to save over $3.5 billion in generic drug costs for Medicare subscribers. This is not a direct threat to hospitals but supports the overall activity currently underway in healthcare.

What does all of this mean for students preparing academically to pursue a career in health services administration? It means OPPORTUNITIES! This is why my opening statement suggests “there is not a better time to pursue a career in health services administration.” The healthcare landscape has opened far beyond the hospital sector and will require leadership to provide the vital direction needed during these turbulent times. Since I follow healthcare history and know many of the students preparing to lead our healthcare system, I am confident the country is in good hands and healthcare will continue to be led by the brightest and most innovative executives who have always been the trademark of our healthcare system. In addition to our centerpiece, hospitals, students will also have the opportunity to explore well beyond our acute care traditional healthcare into enhanced long-term care, healthcare technology, a more sophisticated mental health system, a highly focused and targeted outpatient arena, hospital care delivered at home, and of course, the non-traditional players such as Walmart, CVS, Amazon, to name a few. This new breed of non-traditional players has what most in the past didn’t have and that is significant financial resources.

To take advantage of these opportunities, students and all future leaders must prepare themselves by being academically qualified to lead in today’s dynamic and fast-growing healthcare industry. There is no better academic program available than Florida Atlantic University which provides the most contemporary educational experience attainable with the most highly qualified faculty committed to student success and future healthcare leaders.

FAU has developed its programs with the best interest of students a priority. These programs include an undergraduate, a traditional Master of Health Administration (MHA) with courses offered in a face-to-face format or online, and an executive program (EMHA) that meets every third weekend on campus and designed for students with healthcare experience and working in a healthcare organization needing a graduate degree to pursue promotional opportunities.

Please feel free to contact me should you want to discuss a career in healthcare administration. I am available to share my 35 years of healthcare executive experience and guide students on an academic course that will best suit your needs and maximize your educational and professional experience.

Dr. Salvatore Barbera, Associate Program Director, Health Administration Programs, College of Business, Florida Atlantic University, can be reached at (561) 297-4444 or Sbarber2@fau.edu .