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What Is a Healthcare Data Analyst? How Do You Become One?

UW Extended Campus Blog Team October 30, 2017

So you’re interested in the business side of medicine. Have you considered a career as a healthcare data analyst?

Healthcare data analysts apply their specialized knowledge of data acquisition, management, analysis, and interpretation directly to healthcare data, providing actionable insights that physicians, clinical researchers, decision-makers, and others can use. It’s a great career choice for those who want to apply healthcare expertise in a novel and innovative way.

What Do Healthcare Data Analysts Do?

Healthcare data analysts—sometimes called healthcare business analysts or health information management (HIM) analysts—gather and interpret data from a variety of sources (e.g., the electronic health record, billing claims, cost reports, and patient satisfaction surveys) to help organizations improve the quality of care, lower the cost of care, and enhance the patient experience. Their role has become increasingly important as organizations look for ways to capitalize on big data and its various applications, including how it can be used to drive healthcare quality improvement.

Healthcare analysts may be responsible for automating internal and external reports, creating executive-level dashboards, and presenting information to help hospital executives and others understand the operational impact of the data.

It’s all about using healthcare data to drive decisions. Data is one of the most valuable assets that any organization owns. Having professionals on staff who are trained to properly collect, store, retrieve, and present data that supports clinical and business decisions is vital. Healthcare data analysts may help hospitals, health systems, and physician groups decide whether to add a new service line, merge other providers, or join an Accountable Care Organization. They also provide data insights that drive clinical process improvement, such as reducing readmissions and hospital-acquired conditions. In addition, healthcare analysts help insurers, vendors, and others synthesize data that guides decision-making, population health management, cost containment, and quality improvement.

Where Do Healthcare Analysts Work?

Healthcare data analysts work for hospitals, health systems, large physician practice groups, health insurance companies, electronic health record (EHR) and other health information technology vendors, healthcare consulting companies, federal and state departments and agencies, and other health organizations.

In large enterprises, they often work as part of a larger business intelligence team that reports directly to executive leaders, such as the chief medical officer or chief financial officer. They may also report to quality or IT managers. In smaller organizations, they might be a team of one, reporting directly to leadership.

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What Is a Healthcare Analyst’s Salary?

According to Salarylist.com, healthcare data analysts earn a median salary of $70,000. Other sites say healthcare analyst salaries are higher. For example, on average, healthcare analysts earn $72,595 annually, according to Glassdoor.com.

Are You Right for a Healthcare Data Analyst Role?

If you’re a stickler for detail and number crunching, enjoy solving complex problems, and work well under pressure, then a healthcare analyst job might be a good fit—particularly if you have a passion and curiosity for healthcare. Other important personality traits include the ability to collaborate with others, multi-task in a busy environment, and communicate clearly both in written and verbal formats.

Those with previous healthcare experience are well-positioned to become healthcare data analysts. That’s because they can directly apply their domain knowledge. For example, HIM professionals—especially medical coders, medical record clerks, charge audit analysts, or auditors—are well-suited for health data analyst positions because of their experience applying medical codes to clinical data. They’re familiar with the EHR and understand healthcare industry terminology, such as ICD, CPT, LOINC, and SNOMED. Nurses and medical assistants may also be a good fit because of their direct clinical care experience and familiarity with clinical data.

How Do You Become a Healthcare Data Analyst?

Many healthcare analyst positions require a bachelor’s degree in health information management or—even better—health information management and technology (HIMT) or another relevant field such as mathematics, biostatistics, or data science. An HIMT bachelor’s degree demonstrates that you have all of the knowledge and skills you need to succeed as a healthcare analyst, such as data warehousing and mining, health information technology standards, programming and software development, quality assessment, and project management.

Employers also prefer to hire those with healthcare experience, such as experience working with clinical or other types of EHR data. (Worried about not having clinical data experience? Know this: University of Wisconsin HIMT students complete capstone projects, which often provide the real-life work experience they need to get their foot in the door.)

Aspiring healthcare data analysts may also want to consider obtaining the Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA) credential from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). According to AHIMA, the CHDA denotes one’s 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.”

Other potentially helpful resources include the National Association of Health Data Organizations, Healthcare Data and Analytics Association, and Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. These organizations provide thought leadership, professional development, networking opportunities, and more.

Take the Next Step in Your Career

If getting your bachelor’s degree is your next move toward becoming a healthcare analyst, consider a Bachelor of Science in HIMT from University of Wisconsin. Designed for busy career changers, the 61-credit curriculum is offered online. You choose a concentration in HIM, health IT—or both. Best of all, you will earn your degree from one of four respected UW campuses. Start exploring the program now.

Have questions? Contact an enrollment adviser at 608-262-2011 or learn@uwex.edu. Enrollment advisers are available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST, or by appointment. 


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Programs: Health Information Management and Technology