School of Population Health

Healthcare Economics and Financial Management (PHCM9441)

image - Healthcare Economics and Financial Management


This course combines health economics and healthcare financial management. The first module of this course Introduction to Health Economics will cover key economic concepts which will explain the mechanisms driving above policies/ behaviour. The main objective of this module is to introduce you to several economic concepts relevant to health care management and demonstrate how they are applied to actual situations in the health care industry. The second module of this course Financial Management will introduce you to many accounting principles, processes and procedures and their general application to the health care system.  This module will help you develop a sound working knowledge of basic financial statements as well as an understanding of budgeting for decision-making and managerial control in health management. Together these modules will assist you to understand economic principles and techniques that influence decision making and government policy in the healthcare industry. They will also provide you with core capabilities for making health management decisions related to budgets and resources.  In both modules the emphasis is on understanding how finance and economics can be used in day-to-day decision making – so a practical scenario-based approach will be taken. Similarly, the assessments will also focus on practical applications of the concepts.

Credit points

This course is a core course of the Master of Health Leadership and Management Program, comprising six units of credit towards the total number of units required for completion of the masters program.

Mode of study

This course is offered in two modes: 1) either face-to-face classes on-campus for Internal students, and 2) fully online for Distance External students.

Course aim

The aim of this course is to provide you with core capabilities in understanding and applying financial concepts and techniques as well as the principles and tools of healthcare economics to inform your decision making as a health care manager.

In Module 1, the aim is to introduce you to issues and theoretical perspectives of health economics and to enable you to relate these concepts and approaches to your own personal and work experiences so that you have a better perspective on how the overall Australian health system functions. In Module 2, the aim is to introduce you to fundamental accounting methods that you can apply to a health service context and equip you with practical skills that will help you become a better healthcare manager.

Course Outcomes

By the end of Module 1, you should be able to:

  • Identify and outline the key aims, concepts and principles of health economics.

  • Outline the unique features of the healthcare market and how these influence decisions relating to equity and efficiency.

  • Explain the reasons why governments intervene in the healthcare industry and the impact this has on the demand for health services.

  • Identify specific factors that influence the current and future demand and supply of health care. 

  • Explain the role, limitations and usefulness of economic analysis and economics as a way of thinking, particularly when applied to the health care sector..

  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of activity-based funding as a means of financing the provision of health services.

By the end of Module 2, you should be able to:

  • Identify the three main financial statements – i.e. the balance sheet, profit and loss statement and cash flow statement. 

  •  Demonstrate a working knowledge of the doctrines and conventions of accounting - such as relevance, reliability, materiality and timeliness. 

  • Explain the difference between cash and accrual accounting. 

  • Calculate a break-even point for a health service. 

  • Construct a budget and analyse the difference between budgeted and actual outcomes. 

  • Apply these accounting concepts to better understanding the cost and revenue structures of the organisation in which you work. 

  • Finally, you should be able to outline the main features of the Australian healthcare system – in particular how health spending is managed and the roles and responsibilities of various levels of government and why health expenditure is increasing. 

Learning and teaching rationale

This course assumes no prior knowledge of either economics or finance. It is important that health services managers make the best possible use of the resources available to them. Whatever your area of management responsibility, skills in financial management enable you to use financial information to help in your decision making and thus contribute to something bigger – getting better health care to more people. This course will not turn you into a financial expert able to produce vast amounts of numbers and statistics. But it will assist you to become more comfortable with financial information, so you will be able to construct a budget or develop financial projections for a new service. You will also learn how to critically examine financial information so that you can identify key issues and discuss these confidently with your finance team and senior management colleagues.

Teaching strategies

This course assumes no prior knowledge of accounting, financial management or economics and starts at a very basic level and then works into more complex problems. At all times the aim is to introduce you to concepts and skills that will be of value in your everyday work.


Assessment Task 1 - Health care economics online quiz
Weighting: 5%
Length: Ten Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)

Assessment Task 2 - Health care economics short answer questions
Weighting: 40%
Length: Five short answer questions + one essay type question

Assessment Task 3 - Financial management calulation & short discussion questions
Weighting: 45%
Length: 35 calculation questions & 10 short discussion questions

Assessment Task 4 - Online discussion
Weighting: 10%
Length: n/a


Module 1 Health Economics textbook: Folland S, Goodman A & Stano M, The Economics of Health and Health Care, 8th edition, International Edition, New York: Routledge, 2018, ISBN: 9781351595216. eBook of 7th edition available from UNSW Library.

Module 2 Financial Management textbook: J Birt, K Chalmers, S Maloney, A Brooks and J Oliver, Accounting: Business Reporting for Decision Making, 6th edition, John Wiley & Sons, 2016, ISBN: 978-0-7303-4404-9. eBook available from UNSW Library.