How Hospital Administration Projects Can Benefit Premed Students

Hospital administrators ensure the safety, quality, operations and finances of the hospital system so that doctors and other health care professionals can provide the highest level of care for patients. More doctors are taking on hospital leadership and administration roles in addition to their clinical practice.

“As one considers a career in medicine, it is important to understand the complexities of the health care system,” says Dr. Sam Shen, the Stanford University School of Medicine‘s emergency medicine vice chair of clinical operations and an associate chief quality officer at Stanford Health Care.

“Just like the practice of clinical medicine has advanced and evolved over the past several decades, management of delivery system has evolved as well. Our medical school and residency training programs are excellent and will train very capable clinicians. However, it’s not enough to be experts in the practice of medicine, as future doctors will also need to understand the economic landscape, payor dynamics, and regulatory forces that affect health care delivery.”

[READ: How to Make Premed Nonclinical Experiences Relevant to Practicing Medicine.]

Shen’s belief in the importance of physician leaders understanding the health care ecosystem led him to create an administrative fellowship in the emergency department. In his roles, he works with nonphysician administrators, physicians, residents, medical school students and premedical students on various projects to improve the hospital.

Premed students can work on hospital administration projects to gain experience in leading health care projects, as well as to learn the complexities of the health care delivery system. They can engage in hospital administration through school projects; hospital committee roles; summer internships; pursuit of Master of Hospital Administration, Master of Public Health or Master of Business Administration degrees; and full-time hospital administration roles during gap years.

Types of Hospital Administration Projects

Here are some common hospital administration projects that premeds can get involved with.

Patient experience. Patient experience projects center around improving patients’ interactions with the health care system. Patients’ interactions include the time before they arrive at the hospital — such as calling to set up appointments — continues with their stays at the hospital and finishes with follow-ups after appointments. One example of a patient experience project is working to decrease patient waiting room times.

[Read: How to Document Premed Activities]

Safety and quality. In order for hospitals to continue running, they must ensure a high level of quality and safety throughout the entire system. In fact, hospitals are graded on quality and safety metrics, and they receive report cards for their performance. Popular areas of safety and quality projects include infection control, in-hospital falls, hospital readmission rates and prevention of disease complications. One example of a safety and quality project is how to decrease the readmission rates for heart failure patients.

Hospital operations. Hospital operations projects focus on the day-to-day processes to ensure that each clinic and department runs efficiently. Examples of hospital operations projects include how to optimize the number of patients seen in an outpatient clinic, how to decrease the time to transfer a patient from the emergency room to a hospital bed and how to optimize operation room usage.

[Read: What Premeds Can Learn in Intensive Care Units]

Electronic health records. Premed students can work on hospital administration projects that leverage the data collected by electronic health records, or EHRs. For example, one project may include how to identify and screen patients who are at risk for heart attacks. Additionally, premed students can work on EHR projects that help physicians with their clinical practice.

Many hospitals are implementing clinical decision support tools that use the stored digital information from patients. These tools can suggest next steps for treatments or alert doctors about potential problems like dangerous medication interactions.

“Medicine is an amazing and fulfilling career, as the impact you can have on patients is very rewarding,” Shen says. “I believe physicians can have a powerful voice in hospital administration and positively impact the broader community in addition to the patient at the bedside through their leadership.”

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