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5 Challenges Faced by Today’s Healthcare Administrators

An MHA degree can help prepare leaders in healthcare administration to address complex challenges.

Healthcare in the U.S. is at a turning point. Technological advancements, changes to healthcare delivery and payment models, and a global pandemic are just some of the factors contributing to recent or anticipated changes in our complex healthcare system.

This evolving healthcare climate poses big challenges for healthcare administrators and executives. And at the top of the list of concerns: financial worries. According to an annual survey of 1,481 community hospital CEOs, financial challenges ranked No. 1 on the list of top concerns in 2019.1 The respondents pointed to increasing operating expenses, rising staff costs, and slow and inadequate reimbursement rates as among the most significant financial challenges facing healthcare administrators today.


To better manage these types of administration challenges, many current or aspiring healthcare leaders are returning to college to further their education with a master’s degree. At Walden University, for example, students in the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) degree program take online courses that explore the latest trends, regulations, policies, technologies, and best practices in the field. They examine top challenges in the field while developing the advanced business skills that are required of today’s healthcare administrators.

Five Challenges Facing Healthcare Administrators

Earning an MHA degree can prepare healthcare administrators and executives to lead in an ever-changing healthcare landscape. Let’s take a closer look at five challenges facing leaders in healthcare administration today:

1. Addressing the Rising Cost of Healthcare

It’s no secret that healthcare in the U.S. is expensive, and the costs keep going up. In 2018 alone, the U.S. spent about $3.6 trillion on healthcare, which averages to about $11,000 per person.2 The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) project that national healthcare spending will climb to $6.2 trillion by 2028.3

A growing and aging population and rising healthcare service prices are among the key reasons for the drastic increase. And the projections don’t even take into account the current and future effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the healthcare system. Healthcare administrators must find ways to combat these rising costs to Americans while also managing their hospitals’ own budget challenges.

2. Recruiting Top Nursing Talent

The need for qualified nurses is never more evident than during the global pandemic. But even before the COVID-19 heath crisis hit, healthcare administrators struggled to fill the demand for nurses. And the shortage is only expected to grow.

According to the American Nurses Association, there will be far more registered nurse (RN) jobs available than any other profession by 2022.4 With more than 500,000 seasoned RNs anticipated to retire by 2022, there is a need for an additional 1.1 million new RNs.4

Competing to recruit and retain top nurses and fill empty positions has been and will continue to be a major challenge for leaders in healthcare administration.

3. Managing Medicare and Medicaid

In a 2019 annual survey of hospital executives, 71% of respondents identified Medicaid reimbursement and 54% of respondents identified Medicare reimbursement as among their top challenges.1 Also in 2019, more than two-thirds of medical practices reported that Medicare payments were not enough to cover the cost of delivering care, leaving healthcare administrators with a budget shortfall.5

What’s more, record unemployment rates due to the COVID-19 crisis will likely add to the problem. In April 2020, the U.S. saw 14.7% unemployment — the highest unemployment rate in the U.S. since the Great Depression.6 The result is an estimated 16.2 million workers who have likely lost their employer-provided health insurance.7 The masses of newly unemployed individuals could likely result in a marked increase in the number of patients who have Medicaid coverage or who are uninsured or underinsured. Healthcare administrators are challenged with providing healthcare services to these patients while maintaining fiscal responsibility.

4. Expanding the Use of Telehealth and Virtual Healthcare

Telehealth expanded significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic as hospitals and doctors were forced to transition to virtual care and remote appointments. Now, many healthcare leaders are advocating for the permanent expansion of telehealth beyond the end of the public health emergency. While the expansion of telehealth would offer many benefits for patient care, it can also pose new challenges—such as cybersecurity and patient privacy issues—for healthcare administration.

5. Protecting Against Cyberattacks

Cybersecurity remains a top challenge in 2020 for leaders in healthcare administration. And attackers are getting smarter and more strategic. In the first half of 2020, when healthcare administrators were distracted with other pressing issues related to COVID-19, cyberattackers took advantage. Between the months of February and May 2020, there were 132 reported breaches—almost 50% more than the same time frame the previous year.8 According to experts, the healthcare industry is especially vulnerable to these types of threats:9

  • Ransomware
  • Data breaches
  • DDoS attacks 
  • Insider threats
  • Business e-mail compromise and fraud scams 

Hospital executives and healthcare administrators must continue to work closely with their information systems teams and cybersecurity experts to keep their guard up and secure sensitive data and systems.

If you want a career in healthcare administration, make sure you’re ready for the challenges of today’s complex healthcare system by enrolling in an MHA degree program. Walden’s Master of Healthcare Administration degree program is fully online and offers a competency-based option so you can learn at your own pace. Earn your master’s in healthcare administration and become prepared to make an impact on the healthcare system today and into the future.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Master of Healthcare Administration degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,