ROLE OF THE MANAGER IN HEALTH CARE POLICY As noted earlier in this chapter, managers must consider both their external and internal domains as they carry out management functions and tasks. One of the critical areas for managing the external world is to be knowledgeable about health policy matters under consideration at the state and federal levels that affect health services organizations and health care delivery. This is particularly true for senior- level managers. This awareness is necessary to influence policy in positive ways that will help the organization and limit any adverse impacts. Staying current with health care policy discussions, participating in deliberations of health policy, and providing input where possible will allow health care management voices to be heard. Because health care is such a popular yet controversial topic in the U.S. today, continuing changes in health care delivery are likely to emanate from the legislative and policy processes at the state and federal levels. For example, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010 as a major health care reform initiative, has had significant implications for health care organizations in terms of patient volumes, reimbursement for previously uninsured patients, and the movement to improve population health and develop value-based purchasing. Other recent federal policy changes include cuts in Medicare reimbursement and increases in reporting requirements. State legislative


changes across the country affect reimbursement under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, licensure of facilities and staff, certificate of need rules for capital expenditures and facility and service expansions, and state requirements on mandated health benefits and modified reimbursements for insured individuals that affect services offered by health care organizations.

In order to understand and influence health policy, managers must strive to keep their knowledge current. This can be accomplished through targeted personal learning, networking with colleagues within and outside of their organizations, and participating in professional associations, such as the American College of Healthcare Executives and the Medical Group Management Association. These organizations, and many others, monitor health policy discussions and advocate for their associations’ interests at the state and federal levels. Knowledge gained through these efforts can be helpful in shaping health policy in accordance with the desires of health care managers.

RESEARCH IN HEALTH CARE MANAGEMENT Current research in management focuses on best practices. For example, the best practices of managers and leaders in ensuring organizational performance has been the focus of work by McAlearney, Robbins, Garman, and Song (2013) and Garman, McAlearney, Harrison, Song, and McHugh (2011). The best practices identified by these researchers include staff engagement, staff acquisition and development, staff frontline empowerment, and leadership alignment and development. Understanding what leaders do to develop their staff and prepare lower-level managers for leadership roles has been a common research focus as well. Leadership development programs have been examined in terms of their structure and impact. McAlearney (2008) surveyed health care organizations and key informants to determine the availability of leadership development programs and their role in improving quality and efficiency, and found these programs enhanced the skills and quality of the workforce, improved efficiency in educational development, and reduced staff turnover. A study of high-performing health organizations found various practices are used to develop leaders internally, including talent reviews to identify candidates for upward movement, career development planning, job rotations, and developmental assignments (McHugh, Garman, McAlearney, Song, & Harrison, 2010). In addition, a 2010 study examined leadership development in health and non-health care organizations and found best practices included 360-degree performance evaluation, mentoring,


coaching, and experiential learning (National Center for Healthcare Leadership, 2010). A study of U.S. health systems found about half of health systems offered a leadership development program and also found that leadership development initiatives helped the systems focus on employee growth and development and improved employee retention (McAlearney, 2010). As noted earlier in this chapter, some recent studies have examined the characteristics of leadership development programs in hospitals, finding correlations of programs with size, urban location, and not-for-profit ownership status (Kim and Thompson, 2012; Thompson and Kim, 2013). A new area of management research is the participation of early careerists in leadership development programs, and recent evidence shows that some leadership development activities are of more interest to staff than others (Thompson and Temple, 2015). A number of important areas of management research exist today, and include looking at the effect of leadership development training on specific decision-making by managers, career progression due to participation in leadership development, and the impact of collaboration among staff on firm innovation and performance (Amabile, Fisher, & Pillemer, 2014).

CHAPTER SUMMARY The profession of health care management is challenging yet rewarding, and requires persons in managerial positions at all levels of the organization to possess sound conceptual, technical, and interpersonal skills to carry out the necessary managerial functions of planning, organizing, staffing, directing, controlling, and decision making. In addition, managers must maintain a dual perspective where they understand the external and internal domains of their organization and the need for development at the self, unit/team, and organization levels. Opportunities exist for managerial talent at all levels of a health care organization, including supervisory, middle-management, and senior-management levels. The role of manager is critical to ensuring a high level of organizational performance, and managers are also instrumental in establishing and maintaining organizational culture, talent recruitment and retention, leadership development and succession planning, innovation and change management, and shaping health care policy.

Note: Portions of this chapter were originally published as “Understanding Health Care Management” in Career Opportunities in Healthcare Management: Perspectives from the Field, by Sharon B. Buchbinder and Jon M. Thompson, and an adapted version of this chapter is reprinted here with permission of


the publisher.


1. Define health care management and health care managers.

2. Delineate the functions carried out by health care managers and give an example of a task in each function.

3. Explain why interpersonal skills are important in health care management.

4. Compare and contrast three models of organizational design.

5. Why is the health care manager’s role in ensuring high performance so critical? Explain.

6. Characterize the health care manager’s role in change management and assess the extent to which this has an impact on the success of the change process.

REFERENCES Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). (n.d.). Never events.

Retrieved from Amabile, T., Fisher, C. M., & Pillemer, J. (2014). IDEO’s culture of helping.

Harvard Business Review, 92, 54–


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