What is a Health Care Product Manager?
It is often said that health care is about people, but good care depends on products as well. Drugs, technologies, and even insurance policies can be thought of as products. Product managers manage them throughout their life cycle. (The job title is often used to refer specifically to technological products, but can refer to other products used in the health care industry.)
As a health care product manager, you’re responsible for making sure that you have solid products and that they’re well represented to the clients and customers that can benefit from them. Health care product management can include a wide variety of job duties, organized in several broad categories.
Product managers are responsible for figuring out what people’s needs are and meeting them. This may involve holding focus groups with members of the population served. Health care product managers may conduct market research, identify unsolved problems, and bring new solutions into the product line. This can be done in any of several ways: through acquisitions or partnerships or by overseeing the development of a new product.
Health care product managers may also have marketing duties. They may develop marketing plans, provide sales support and training, and write documentation. They need to be aware of what’s already on the market. They may need to track competitors’ products and develop differentiation strategies.
Product management is more than a one person job. Health care product managers work with people as well as products. In fact, they may coordinate the efforts of large teams: market researchers and analysts, marketing and advertising specialists, product developers. Communication is a big part of the job.
A wide set of duties requires a wide skill set. We might think of a health care product manager as a product manager with expertise in health care. The role requires knowledge in both disciplines. Product management has a lifecycle, and the product manager may need to know particular models, for example, the Product Lifecycle Process Flow.
Health care also has its own terminology and its own set of codes. What are some of the things that companies cite in ads for health care product managers? Knowledge of HIPAA can be important — this is a set of regulations about insurance. HL7 is also cited. And of course a product manager needs an understanding of the particular product and the needs it meets!
The entry level for a career in health product management is the bachelor’s degree. Some jobs favor candidates with master’s degrees.
There are opportunities to tailor your education toward this career. At the undergraduate level, it is possible to do a minor in health care product management. It is also possible to do a master’s or graduate certificate in product management. The program may include classes in new product management, brand management, pricing, and management of development teams.
Getting a degree in product management is a relatively new concept. It is possible to break into the field with degrees in any of a number of fields. A scan of job postings finds a number of majors cited. One recent ad noted that degrees in computer science, health care, or mathematics were acceptable. Another mentioned business and technology.
Some majors will be more effective for particular types of health care product management positions. Computer science graduates may be especially well qualified to research and represent technological products. Having relevant experience, though, is often more important than having a particular degree.
You can study different complementary subjects at the undergraduate and graduate level. For example, if you already have a degree somewhere in the health care arena, you might opt for an MBA.
Will you need any special credentials to be a health care product manager? It depends. A license: no. Certification, maybe — some employers do cite it as a preferred qualification. They may, for example, ask for Pragmatic Marketing certification. Pragmatic Marketing certification requires course attendance as well as passing scores on an exam.
Glassdoor lists the average salary for a product manager as $98,000 in October of 2012. Salaries in management vary greatly, depending on the size of the company, the level of management, and the actual job duties. It generally takes some time to work up to the industry’s average salary.