What Does a Healthcare Data Analyst Do?
Learn the Skills and Responsibilities of a Fast-Growing Profession
Healthcare and technology are two of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. economy in terms of career outlook. As health providers and organizations look to harness and leverage the power of big data in healthcare and its diverse applications, healthcare data analysts are in high demand across the country. This means strong income-earning potential and job security for skilled professionals who understand healthcare business operations and how to use data to achieve the goals of a healthcare administration.
What are the primary role and responsibilities of a healthcare data analyst?
On the business side of medicine, healthcare data analysts help health executives, administrators and managers make and support strategic decisions to achieve business goals based on insights derived from understanding healthcare data. As problem-solvers, they are primarily responsible for the following:
- Gathering data from various sources
- Organizing and managing large data sets
- Retrieving data from database management systems
- Analyzing data to find patterns and trends
- Interpreting and converting data from complex models into usable information that is easy to understand
- Communicating findings through detailed reports and presentations
- Recommending changes or improvements based on those findings
Healthcare data analysts provide actionable insights that drive and optimize operational management, process improvements and growth strategies for healthcare organizations. Ultimately, they play a vital role in improving the quality of healthcare and patient outcomes, increasing the efficiency and lowering the cost of healthcare and enhancing the patient experience.
What skills and knowledge does a healthcare data analyst need?
Healthcare data analysts share many qualifications necessary for data analyst careers in other sectors. Technical skills are essential. For example, healthcare data analysts should know the following:
- Mathematics and statistics
- Data storage and sharing methods such as data warehousing and mining
- Database programming languages such as R and SQL
- Database and reporting software such as Excel
- Python for data manipulation
- Data analytics tools such as Tableau and Sisense
- Data visualization tools such as dashboards and data management applications
Important soft skills that complement technical knowledge include written and verbal communication, analytical and creative thinking, interpersonal communication and collaboration and project and time management. Effective healthcare data analysts tend to be detail oriented, good at multi-tasking, interested in crunching numbers, adept at solving complex problems and able to work under sometimes high pressure.
Industry-specific experience is also useful but not necessarily required for entering the healthcare analytics field. Experience in the healthcare sector offers first-hand knowledge of health information technology standards, electronic medical records, medical terminology and procedures, quality assessments and medical billing. In particular, health information management professionals, nurses and medical assistants may be well suited for future data analyst careers in healthcare.
Beyond this, the skillset of healthcare data analysts can vary widely, depending on their specific job and area of specialization.
Where do healthcare data analysts work?
Healthcare data analysts may function independently or as part of a larger team of business intelligence professionals. Typically, they work under the direction of an executive such as the chief financial officer or chief medical officer or are part of a quality assurance or IT department. Healthcare data analysts may also work in other administrative departments such as supply chain management or human resources.
Healthcare data analysts might be employed by health providers and organizations such as these:
- Hospitals and healthcare systems
- Physician offices and groups
- Medical labs
- Pharma companies
- Insurance providers
- Health information technology vendors
- Federal and state government departments and agencies
- Healthcare consulting companies
Healthcare data analysts are also referred to as healthcare analysts, healthcare business analysts, healthcare information management analysts and healthcare consultants. Occupations and job titles for data analyst careers that are similar to healthcare data analysts include:
- Business Intelligence Analyst
- Clinical Intelligence Analyst
- Computer and Information Research Scientists
- Computer and Information Systems Managers
- Computer Systems Analysts
- Data Scientist
- Data Solutions Architect
- Database Systems Administrators
- Health Informatics Data Analyst
- Healthcare Analytics Manager
- Healthcare Economist
- Information Security Analysts
- Medical and Health Services Managers
- Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
- Process Improvement Specialist
How much do healthcare data analysts make?
Regardless of the industry, data analyst salaries generally tend to be above the national average, but healthcare data analyst salaries are typically even higher.
Healthcare data analyst salaries vary depending on a variety of factors such as education, certifications and years of experience. According to salary.com, the median healthcare data analyst salary with master’s degree or MBA ranges from $64,000 to $71,000. According to Payscale, healthcare data analyst salaries range from $48,000 to $81,000. This range likely reflects the difference between an entry-level healthcare data analyst salary and senior healthcare data analyst salary. Some senior healthcare data analyst salaries start at $83,000 or more.
How to become a healthcare data analyst
Candidates for healthcare data analyst jobs typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in a science- or technology-related discipline, such as mathematics, statistics, IT, computer science or health information management. Healthcare data analyst salaries and job opportunities tend to improve with a master’s degree and additional experience or training in either data analytics or healthcare. Professional credentials, such as the Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA) certification from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), can also improve job and income-earning potential.
The CHDA demonstrates the knowledge and ability to “acquire, manage, analyze, interpret and transform data into accurate, consistent and timely information, while balancing the ‘big picture’ strategic vision with day-to-day details,” according to AHIMA.
With or without a master’s degree and professional certification, candidates for healthcare data analyst jobs may also benefit from mentoring by experienced healthcare professionals in data analyst careers and gaining work experience in fields that relate to other aspects of healthcare. These could include human resources, product research and development and sales and marketing.
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