Where can I begin as a Non-Clinical Healthcare Professional?

Melissa Skolnik
Feb 16, 2017 · 7 min read

I studied Health Policy/American Healthcare/Health Science and I’m Interested in the Non-Clinical Chaos of Healthcare as a Profession. Now what?

Welcome to the land where problems run deep and solutions are hard to come by, slow to adopt, tough to measure, where sales cycles are roughly as long as it’d take to make two babies back to back.

If you’re here, you may already be emotionally invested. If you’re not, this probably isn’t the place for you, and I might even recommend turning back now. The messes are massive and the knot could take our entire lives to untangle.

I write this post in hopes that it’ll help someone, because for me, this list was tough to wrap my head around during my junior and senior year of college, getting ready to graduate from Brandeis with a degree in Health: Science, Society and Policy and a minor in business. Five years later, I’ve gotten enough questions from graduating seniors and juniors to know that this could still be valuable.

I knew I was interested in the nebulous space where business, technology, and healthcare collide. Maybe like I did, you know that you want to make the world a better place. You know that you want to help improve healthcare, but you don’t know where to begin. Here are some options. This is not a comprehensive list. It is the best list I could come up with for most likely options that you should at least be aware of. Don’t be afraid to pave your own way, get creative, and please share any ideas in the comment section that I may have overlooked.

For everyone: if you don’t already have one, get a Twitter account and follow CEOs/any influencers at companies or organizations that excite you or pique any interest in you. They will share articles that will keep you up to date on trends/issues that are interesting to them and that in turn, will help you discover new ideas/interesting people/other important thought leaders.

Talk to people who do different things or have the same title, but for different companies. Use LinkedIn to reach out and make connections, but if you’re reaching out to someone you don’t know, send them a personalized message about why you’re writing to connect and ask them if they’d be willing to chat with you for 10–15 minutes about their professional journey. You only get approximately two sentences when you “request to connect” with someone on LinkedIn, so make them meaningful. Ask a specific question in your follow up message after they agree, so that they know what you’re interested in talking about before you get them on the phone. If you have a copy of your resume you can pass along, even better so they’ll have an idea of who you are and where you’re coming from before the conversation begins. This helps respect their time, which is extremely valuable.

Note: For my own professional reasons, I am not including the names of any particular companies as examples. I am writing this of my own volition and don’t want there to be the appearance of endorsements of any kind. The only companies I’ve listed, are listed because they have helped me grow professionally and have helped me define my own journey and consider where I hope it may one day lead.

1. “Hospital Administration”

  • Work at a doctor’s office as an office manager (or work your way up to this point from an assistant role)
  • Work at a hospital/academic medical center as an office manager
  • Work at a hospital/academic medical center as a research coordinator (coordinate human subjects for clinical trials)
  • Work at a hospital/hospital system doing performance improvement work (lean/six sigma work)

2. The business side of healthcare

  • Analyst Role in a hospital in a business office — understand trends (quality improvement, insurance denials trends, cost management strategy, etc.)
  • Health Information Management Analyst roles

3. “Healthcare Consulting” — be aware of the fact that “healthcare consulting” can be used as an umbrella term for a vast array of different work. Some interim management roles are billed as “healthcare consulting.” Many health tech vendors sell “consulting services” as part of an implementation package of some kind of technology they’re selling — for example, perhaps company X is selling a patient cost estimation tool to a for-profit health system. When they make the sale, the deal may include Y hours of consulting services to help make sure that processes are strong so that when the system is implemented, there is a smooth transition. Part of the successful roll out of their product is making sure that people are strong in their current roles and processes are efficient in current state. If people need to be reassigned to roles that fit better, or if processes need to be streamlined, that work should be done ahead of system implementation as much as possible to avoid the possibility of a mediocre implementation. (Metaphor: if garbage bags used at Tony’s Pizza break every night and leave trash on the floor that needs to be cleaned up, and a new trash bag company CEO comes in and says, “Hey Tony, we can sell you bags that don’t break. We’ll save you 15 minutes per day that you’re currently spending cleaning trash off the floor along with the cost of the replacement bags. As part of our sale, we’d like to come and observe your trash removal process. We will weigh the bags of trash in real time before you attempt to take them out to ensure that they don’t exceed our recommended weight limit of 30 lbs. per bag. If during that process, we discover that your trash typically weighs more than 30 lbs. per bag, we will replace your trash bins with smaller bins to accommodate the right weight, given the average density of your establishment’s trash.” By selling a consulting service in addition to a new product, this vendor is increasing the likelihood of a successful implementation of their new trash bags. Without this consulting service, their new bags would likely fail, due to the fact that Tony’s Pizza may have a poor trash removal process, overloading their bags, unrelated to the fact that its current bags may not be adequate.)

  • Consulting firm that works with physician groups to improve physician billing operations/revenue cycle
  • Consulting firm that works with hospitals/hospital systems to improve hospital billing operations/revenue cycle
  • Big consulting firm that works with payer/provider relations (insurance companies) and/or with large hospital systems (academic or non) for strategy work or general management consulting projects

4. Think tanks/Health Policy Research — Health policy research can help government/regulatory agencies navigate policy options and educate the public on important health/social issues

  • Researcher/Analyst/Research Coordinator

5. Government

  • CMS — Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services — local or federal agencies, including CDC

6. Large Non-hospital Health Related Non-profits

  • Fundraising
  • Operations/Management/Assistant Management

7. Health Tech Company

  • Vendors — there are a growing number of healthcare tech vendors. Every company wants to make a product that can “integrate” with electronic medical records/billing systems and add additional value to compensate for the shortcomings of those EMRs and billing systems. Note: Here are some questions to ask when you land your interviews to help you get a better sense of what kind of company you’d be working for:
  • Understand who their target market is. For example, are their clients small physician groups/large academic medical centers/specialty practices (just cardiology practices for example). What does a typical implementation of their system look like? Who are the different stakeholders within the company who are involved with implementation (is there a lot of customization for each client, or is “vanilla” rolled out to everyone)? What are the biggest challenges of the implementations? Typically, how satisfied are customers with the product/with the implementation process? How common is customer turnover (do customers stick with the product?) After implementation, what is the account management process like (how do they ensure that customers stay happy?) Are customers subscribing and paying for a product or service monthly/annually or is the model an up front cost only (this helps determine if there’s an incentive to keep the customer satisfied or if it’s a one-time-experience focus only.) Geographically, are their customers spread out throughout the country? Will your role involve travel?
  • The questions above will help give you a sense of exactly what kind of work you’ll be doing/what your day to day would be like/what kind of company you’re interviewing with. Will you be doing the same work on repeat at different customers? Will the system you’re implementing actually add value? If customers hate the product, are you signing up to help implement a product that you think is trash? You want to work for a company that you believe in, that sells products that you can, in good conscience, help implement or support (or sell) or talk about with passion over Thanksgiving and in your future interviews!
  • Consultant/Implementation Coordinator or Specialist/Account Manager

8. Electronic Medical Records

  • Electronic Medical Records/Billing Systems

9. Healthcare Startups

If you’re interested in health tech/innovation — Check out ROCK Health (incubator in California that has a great weekly newsletter and invests in a great portfolio of healthcare startups, and has a job board with cool sounding jobs (most technical/software engineering or general manager roles)

  • Healthcare startups/digital health tools/mobile health apps/services — operations, business development roles, sales, growth hacking
  • Biotech Development (for BS students)

10. Insurance Companies

  • Analyst roles

Finally, when you land that role that sounds wonderful, or at least intriguing in some way, make sure you check Glassdoor.com for comparable salaries. Make sure that you humbly negotiate your salary as best you can (especially you, ladies!!) Every dollar negotiated adds to your long term financial health. Everyone deserves that. Be gracious, but assertive. No one owes you anything. But, if you’ve been made an offer, it generally means that your potential has been recognized. At minimum, you can usually negotiate enough to cover round trip tickets for that vacation that you’re definitely going to need, in no time. Speaking of which, you can always try to negotiate more vacation days… (though this is tougher at large organizations that have standardized PTO schedules)!

Happy healthcare trails, and best of luck.

Melissa Skolnik

Written by

healthcare consultant. thirsty to disrupt healthcare w #digitalhealth & cost transparency tools. connects ideas, RTs gravy, smells the roses.