The healthcare industry is in a state of massive flux. An aging population combined with increased life expectancy has created a greater demand for services. Consumer expectations are changing as the market migrates from a fee-for-service payment model to value-based care. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has created more patients seeking services but has also driven consumer costs skyward. As providers and healthcare systems grapple with these sea changes, the industry has made a dramatic shift toward consulting.
The numbers support this: Healthcare consulting in the U.S. outpaces all other areas in terms of growth, expanding at a rate of 9.5% in 2015. Revenue in the healthcare consulting sector is expected to rise at an annual rate of 5.1%, reaching $14.9 billion by 2020.
Governments and healthcare institutions across the world are under new pressure to temper costs and meet changing consumer demands, and the annual global market growth for consulting is estimated at 7%. However, America is home to the largest healthcare consulting market worldwide, with a global market share of 62%. This is followed by Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
Qualified consultants are needed
The flourishing healthcare consulting niche offers a promising career path for those who aspire to be at the forefront of a dynamic and fast-changing industry. Organizations ranging from hospitals and health systems to drug and medical device manufacturers are constantly seeking competent professionals to provide strategic guidance or project-specific expertise. This occupation provides a potentially exhilarating combination of challenge and reward. In fact, healthcare consulting was ranked among the top 100 careers by CNN Money due to its excellent pay, healthy growth, and job satisfaction. The median salary for a consultant in the field is $108,000 and can rise as high as $165,000, depending upon factors such as experience and credentials as well as employer firm attributes like size and industry reputation.
Educational requirements for healthcare consultants vary from job to job. While an undergraduate degree may qualify one for an entry-level position, a master’s degree along with solid experience is likely required for senior-level roles. Healthcare consultants need not be licensed; however, industry certifications can provide added credibility and distinction for a professional who is seeking employment.
What lines of service offer the most opportunity?
Healthcare consultants advise client organizations on a broad range of issues, with a goal of helping them be more innovative, control costs, deliver more value to patients, and keep in step with regulatory demands. The top three in-demand service areas—based on revenue in 2015—are:
- Strategic Management, 36.8%: A consultant in this area guides clients on their overall strategic direction. This might involve mergers and acquisitions related to Accountable Care Organizations (ACO), facilities planning, and governance procedures.
- Financial Management and Operations, 18.9%: Organizations seek consultants who are knowledgeable in capital investments, price negotiations with vendors, accounting procedures, and asset management.
- Human Resources and Benefits, 12.9%: Consultants in this area provide sound expertise on talent recruitment and retention, employee professional development, and compensation and benefits.
IT strategy is another area in which consulting expertise is sought—and it’s expected to grow in the years to come as technological innovation gains momentum in the industry. Organizations require guidance related to electronic health record (EHR) implementation, the integration of telemedicine and software-supported medical devices, and business analytics.
According to Source for Consulting, 2016 projections anticipate the most intensive consulting services growth in the realms of operational improvement, financial management and risk, and technology.
Where are the jobs?
If you wish to pursue a lucrative and satisfying career as a healthcare consultant, it’s a given that you need to go where the jobs are. According to IBISWorld Market Research, opportunities abound in the Southeastern region of the United States, which is home to 26.1% of the nation’s healthcare consultants. The Mid-Atlantic region claims 18.2% of healthcare consultants, followed by the West at 16.7%. Job openings are more likely in densely populated areas of the U.S., which are closer to hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and other organizations that routinely hire consulting services.
More changes ahead
Undoubtedly, the Trump administration will introduce even more significant changes for America’s volatile healthcare industry. According to the PwC Health Research Institute, 2017 will be consumed by the ongoing shift toward value-based care—a healthcare system focused on quality, affordability, and more choices for patients. Organizations will need savvy guidance on a range of emerging issues that includes:
- Changes to the ACA and the aftermath
- The arrival of new technologies (e.g. drones) and their impact on the industry
- Controlling rising drug prices
- The battle against infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance
According to a recent article from online MHA at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, the healthcare consulting market is on an upward trajectory, with no signs of slowing down. Its steady growth coupled with high job satisfaction ratings makes this occupation one worth exploring.