Skip to main content
University of Sunderland

Functions of management in healthcare settings

Posted on: September 23, 2023
Healthcare and Medical business virtual graph data and growth with Medical examination and doctor analyzing medical report network connection on smartphone.

Healthcare environments, such as those operated by the National Health Service (NHS), provide a vast array of health services to millions of people. These settings rely on skilled, dedicated and focused managers to manage day-to-day operations, as well as lead them effectively in the longer term – both are integral to providing high-quality patient care and treatment.

It’s an ideal time to get involved in the management of healthcare services – including hospitals, clinics, and care and nursing homes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report that employment of medical and health services managers is projected to grow 28% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

What are the functions of hospital management?

Healthcare management crosses many disciplines, such as clinical care, finance, human resources, communications, project management, and corporate affairs. The particulars of each management stage – and how macro or micro they are – will depend on the level of management and the specific demands associated with that level.

It’s generally agreed that there are four key functions of management: planning, organising, leading and controlling. These functions must co-operate and support one another in order to create, execute and deliver the healthcare organisation’s goals.

Let’s look at these four management functions in more detail, and consider the questions that healthcare managers will need to ask at each stage


Is a strategic, tactical or operational plan required? What are the healthcare service’s organisational goals? Are there alternative routes to achieving given objectives, and which is the best? Has an in-depth analysis taken into account the current state of affairs? What resources are available? What are the constraints or limitations?



How will tasks, resources (such as funding, healthcare facilities or medical supplies) and healthcare professionals be distributed to achieve the plan? Do different healthcare departments need to collaborate? Do all stakeholders understand their roles and responsibilities?


Are employees sufficiently motivated? Are staff members, wider healthcare teams and groups engaged with their tasks? How could teamwork be further supported? What is the work environment, and the work itself, perceived by employees? Is directing, coaching, supporting or delegating required?



How is the plan going? Is resource allocation sufficient? Are approach, staffing or budget adjustments needed? Do teams need further training? What is the output quality like – for example, patient safety? Is feedback required?

Within each function, any number of activities are required. For example:

  •   problem-solving
  •   budgeting
  •   strategic planning
  •   staffing
  •   decision-making
  •   forecasting
  •   project management
  •   marketing
  •   innovating.

What is the highest level of management within healthcare?

Generally, healthcare management is comprised of three levels of management: top-level, middle-level and frontline managers. Health manager roles tend to be divided into either decisional, informational or interpersonal – although crossover does exist. 

The hospital board is the most senior committee in the institution, supervising the overall activities and performance of the hospital. As large, complex entities, hospitals require high-quality, stable boards who can take ownership of clinical, financial and governance standards.

Hospital boards require close ties across all levels of healthcare staff, and are generally comprised of a range of key management roles:

Chief executive officer (CEO)

CEOs are operational heads charged with managing the hospital’s business and services and implementing the board’s decisions.

Chief operating officer (COO)

COOs are responsible for the daily basis hospital operations, including emergency response planning, implementing strategy, managing clinical managers and directors, and overseeing healthcare facilities and estates.

Chief medical officer (CMO) or medical director (MD)

CMOs are senior doctors charged with leading the hospital’s doctors, advocating for patients, communicating with frontline staff, and driving quality across clinical safety, quality of care, and governance.

Chief nursing officer (CNO)

CNOs have responsibility for anything nursing-related (and often  other medical staff such as allied health professionals).

Chief financial officer (CFO)

CFOs are charged with the financial management of the healthcare organisation.

Independent chairperson and non-executive directors (NEDs)

Chairs and NEDs assume collective responsibility for how the hospital is operated and managed, both from the perspective of the hospital as an organisation and in wider public interest.

Boards also organise sub-committees who focus on the management and oversight of different aspects of hospital business operations, for example: Workforce, Quality and Safety, and Finance and Performance.

What are some of the current challenges facing healthcare management?

The Advisory Board, who shape and support healthcare leadership, outline a handful of the critical challenges facing health and care management in 2023:

Financial difficulties

Systemic issues related to reduced patient capacity, elevated medical supplies and pharmaceuticals costs, staffing problems and rising inflation are set to continue to plague health providers.

Recruiting and retaining staff

With healthcare vacancies recently reaching an all-time high ensuring adequate staff numbers are in place to provide ongoing quality, safety and accessibility of care is vital. Health organisations urgently need to recruit and retain workforces, with many seeking to upgrade hiring processes and technologies and create service-level agreements.

Investment in digital health

Technologies that enable health services to operate in safer, more efficient, more accessible and cost-effective ways show no sign of slowing – but there is still far more to be done. E-health, e-prescribing and remote care initiatives, for example, improve the management of long-term health conditions and relieve pressures on in-person clinical services.

Health equity efforts

The NHS and other providers are acutely aware of disparities in health outcomes, and must seek to tackle these systemic, ongoing issues.

Support skilled, dedicated and effective management within the healthcare system

Are you passionate about driving change in health administration? Want to support providers to improve the quality of their care operations?

Gain the skills to step into senior healthcare administration leadership roles with the University of Sunderland’s online MBA with Healthcare Management programme.

You’ll acquire fundamental and transferable business expertise – complemented by in-depth understanding of the healthcare industry – on an online master’s degree that is designed with real-world public health needs in mind. Hone your management skills and competencies across topics such as organisational development in health and social care, global corporate strategy, operations management, business leadership, marketing, organisational behaviour, and more.

« Previous EntryNext Entry »