Effective leadership is more essential than ever for creating and sustaining health care organizations that deliver quality care. A 2021 report by consulting firm McKinsey & Company drew a connection between implementing innovative business models and health care organizations’ ability to improve health outcomes. But achieving better health outcomes requires leaders who are talented in many areas. It requires those who can promote efficiency while also overseeing diverse functions such as compliance, financial performance and cost reduction.
For individuals who aspire to improve health care quality and efficiency, working as a medical director could be an exciting career option. The medical director job description varies, but whether they work as physicians overseeing an entire organization, as clinical directors, unit leaders or hospital administrators, medical directors have a unique opportunity to steer health care organizations on the best path.
Those who may be considering enrolling in an online Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program or working as public health government professionals can benefit from exploring what medical directors do and the qualifications for the role.
What Is a Medical Director?
Also known as a clinical medical director, a medical director is what ensures the business side of health care runs smoothly. While the role does not necessarily entail treating patients, their work can ensure that patient care at a facility runs as smoothly as possible.
Some of what a medical director oversees may not look too different than those of a typical business. These can include facility budget, relationships with supply chain vendors, regulatory compliance and cultivating a supportive work environment. These functions are key to helping a facility remain buoyant and able to run at an optimal level.
Medical directors also carry the added component of building the foundation necessary for a facility to provide care that can make a positive impact on patient outcomes. While the medical director’s role may be focused on business operations, their work still impacts people in need of quality care.
Medical Director Job Description
While a medical director's job description varies based on the specific role, the core function of the job — overseeing a health care organization or a portion of a health care organization and ensuring quality health care — encompasses many responsibilities. Medical directors also can work in a variety of settings.
Financial and Budgeting Responsibilities
Medical directors have a wide range of financial and budgeting responsibilities to make sure a facility’s finances facilitate patient care strategy effectiveness. These responsibilities can include:
- Managing an organization’s budget
- Monitoring an organization’s financial position, including areas such as cash flow, payroll and expenses
Medical directors also have responsibilities related to strategy, which can impact a facility’s short-term and long-term vision. Those in the role can be responsible for:
- Developing and monitoring an organization’s strategic plan
- Identifying health trends and introducing new treatments
- Planning for the implementation of new information technology
A job description for a medical director would not be complete without a mention of regulatory compliance. There are different layers of compliance those in the role must keep in mind. These include:
- Government agency laws and regulations
- S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services billing requirements
- Regulations related to serving Medicare and Medicaid patients
Communication is a significant part of a medical director’s job description. They must not only know how to communicate but to adjust their community strategies and communication techniques based on their audience. Some of a medical director’s communication responsibilities include:
- Interacting with patients who may be dissatisfied with their care
- Participating in medical staff meetings
- Providing follow-up information to staff and patients regarding their concerns
- Interacting with the administration and senior leaders of a health care organization
- Facilitating communication among clinicians and staff
Human Resources Responsibilities
Medical directors also oversee several areas related to human resources. Some of the duties associated with the job include:
- Hiring and promoting clinicians and staff
- Training clinicians and staff
- Evaluating employee performance
Settings Where Medical Directors May Work
Medical directors can work for various types of health care organizations, from hospitals as clinical directors to government agencies as public health government professionals. These settings can include:
- State, local or private hospitals
- Physician offices
- Nursing and residential care facilities
- Government agencies
- Outpatient care clinics
Medical Director Salary and Job Outlook
The work that a medical director does puts them in a position to earn attractive salaries. As is the case with other MPH careers, a specific medical director’s salary depends on the exact position, an individual’s education and experience and geographic location. That said, the compensation website Payscale offers the following median salary information for the following roles:
- Medical Directors - As of February 2023, the median annual salary is approximately $211,500, with the top 10% of earners bringing in roughly $277,000 annually.
- Clinical Directors - As of March 2023, the median annual salary is roughly $82,600, with the top 10% of earners making an average of $128,000 annually.
In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 28% job growth between 2021 and 2031 for individuals working in medical and health services management careers. According to the BLS, factors such as the aging population and increasing demand for health services will spur this job growth in medical practice management.
How to Become a Medical Director
Some medical directors have prior experience as physicians, while others come to the role from executive positions elsewhere in the health care system. In understanding how to become a medical director, it’s important to be aware of the role’s qualifications and required skills.
While some health care organizations require their medical directors to be M.D.s, others require a master’s degree in a health-related field such as health administration or public health, such as USC’s MPH program.
The experience required to become a medical director depends on the specific position. For example, medical director positions that require an individual to have an M.D. can require at least 10 years of experience as a doctor.
Licensure and Certification
Medical directors who are doctors need to have state licensure as a physician. Individual states also may have requirements for the specific role of medical director. For example, in Texas, certain physicians serving as medical directors for emergency medical services must register with the Texas Medical Board as medical directors.
Medical directors also can pursue certification to strengthen their credentials. For instance, the American Board of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine offers the certified medical director certification. In some cases, this certification is required, as is the case for medical doctors who work in skilled nursing facilities in California.
Medical Director Qualifications: Vital Skills
The medical director’s qualifications require them to have skills in several areas. Medical directors benefit from having competencies in:
- Analytical thinking and judgment
- Written, oral and interpersonal communication
- Conflict resolution
- Budgeting and resource planning
- Decision making and problem solving
- Delegation and supervision
Become a Trusted Leader in Health Care
The responsibilities of medical directors call for trusted leaders who can drive health care toward greater levels of efficiency and effectiveness. Individuals who have the desire to contribute to advancing health care can explore USC’s online MPH degree to learn how the program can help them pursue their professional ambitions. Offering a cutting-edge curriculum and five different concentrations, USC’s MPH program is designed to put you on a course to become a leader in public health. Start your journey to a rewarding public health career today.