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By Prajith
A degree in medicine is not necessary to enter the healthcare sector, especially if it is the management side, says Dr Ashok K Agarwal

The healthcare industry is one of the fastest and largest service sectors in the country. In the coming two years, it is expected that the Indian healthcare market will touch $150 billion. There are various factors that will contribute to the growing healthcare market. Rising incomes, changing demographics and growing lifestyle diseases will call upon the demand for better healthcare delivery in the coming future. The state of healthcare is one of the most important and critical indicators of a nation’s performance.

There is a steady increase in lifestyle diseases in the country with vast majority of rural and poor patients suffering from infectious and acute diseases. The overall quantum of health insurance may have increased, but it is largely limited to urban areas. However, in rural areas people continue to spend from their own pockets. Moreover, while the urban areas are witnessing mushrooming of world class medical facilities, the rural areas are suffering the lack of even basic healthcare facilities.

This has resulted in severe imbalance between the urban and rural areas across all major health indicators. Given the nature of the overall healthcare scenario in India, several organisations, institutes and other health facilities are waking up to the need for better healthcare management. It is imperative that the government and community collectively rise to the occasion and face these challenges together.

As pressure mounts on delivering high quality and high-tech healthcare services, the demand for professional health managers is rising tremendously. According to Bureau of Labour Statistics, employment in the field of health management is expected to grow by 22 percent in the next five years.

The growing need of professionalism would only increase the importance of health management courses in the country. These professionals are expected to be specialists at their work and most importantly, they are expected to have multi-tasking skills. Health management aims to focus on hospital management, community health, health systems research, public health legislations, urban health, health policy formulation and implementation, financing of health services, management of national health programmes, medical tourism, health insurance, healthcare information technology and so on.

There are many universities which offer courses in health management programmes. What makes this field most attractive is the fact that it is not necessary for the students to have a science or medicine background to enter the healthcare sector as managers.

The term, medical and health services manager applies to those professionals, who plan, direct, coordinate and supervise the delivery of healthcare. There is a growing trend among the institutions which prefer to employ management graduates for these roles.

Involving MBBS/MD doctors in management roles is being recognised not only as a waste of a good clinicians’ skills but also increases adhocism as most qualified doctors learn managerial skills through hit and trial method.

Aspirants for health management courses must study the programme from recognised institutions in order to get jobs in reputed organisations. For instance, International Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR), New Delhi, offers a two-year AICTE approved postgraduate diploma in hospital and health management. A graduate with minimum 50 percent aggregate marks in graduation from any stream from a recognised university with CAT, MAT, CMAT or similar management exams scores can apply. Aspirant with minimum two years of work experience in healthcare and/or allied sector are exempted from the management exam scores.

The course equips students with the right knowledge and skills required for management of healthcare organisations like hospitals, National Health Mission (NHM), health IT, research, public healthcare establishments, NGOs, pharmaceuticals and others.

In some institutes, the students have to undergo two months of summer training at the end of the first year and a three-month posting dissertation and work on a problem in a real life situation while working for an organisation in the second year. Therefore, out of the two years, five months are devoted to training and practical work and that is what makes the students completely job ready.

After a healthcare management course, one may find excellent placement opportunities in leading hospitals, NHMs, health IT organisations and so on. The starting package is in the range of Rs5-9 lakh per year.
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