Health systems management or health care systems management describes the leadership and general management of hospitals, hospital networks, and/or health care systems. In international use, the term refers to management at all levels. In the United States, management of a single institution (e.g. a hospital) is also referred to as "medical and health services management", "healthcare management", or "health administration".
Health systems management ensures that specific outcomes are attained, that departments within a health facility are running smoothly, that the right people are in the right jobs that people know what is expected of them, that resources are used efficiently and that all departments are working towards a common goal.
Early hospital administrators were called patient directors or superintendents. At the time, many were nurses who had taken on administrative responsibilities. Other superintendents were medical doctors, laymen and members of the clergy. In the United States, the first degree granting program in the United States was established at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. By 1927, the first two students received their degrees. The original idea is credited to Father Moulinier, associated with the Catholic Hospital Association. The first modern health systems management program was established in 1934 at the University of Chicago. At the time, programs were completed in two years – one year of formal graduate study and one year of practicing internship. In 1958, the Sloan program at Cornell University began offering a special program requiring two years of formal study, which remains the dominant structure in the United States and Canada today (see also "Academic Preparation").
Health systems management has been described as a "hidden" health profession because of the relatively low-profile role managers take in health systems, in comparison to direct-care professions such as nursing and medicine. However the visibility of the management profession within healthcare has been rising in recent years, due largely to the widespread problems developed countries are having in balancing cost, access, and quality in their hospitals and health systems.
The Health Care Management major builds on the established strength of the management core to provide expertise in the unique elements and issues of the health care industry. The manager’s role in health care organizations continues to grow in importance, as the rapidly changing health care industry becomes the nation’s second largest employer. A Wharton health care major is unusually well-qualified to respond to the many critical problems now faced by hospitals, government agencies, group practices, pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms, insurance and managed care organizations, and consulting firms.