Data is increasingly driving decision-making in health care, from collecting information on the quality of patient care to using data for strategy or purchasing decisions. Used correctly, health information has the ability to reduce medical errors, ensure patient safety and to help improve patients’ lives.

What is a data analyst?

The widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) has dramatically increased the amount of data being created, used and stored by health care organizations. 

Employers are increasingly seeking candidates with data analysis skills. Understanding how to access health data and use it for improved decision making will be important for future success. Now, more than ever, health care data analysts are critical to helping health care organizations collect, monitor, assess, report and predict outcomes to ensure that patient needs are met. They provide invaluable insights that can affect public health outcomes, reduce medical costs and improve patient care.

"By examining data, a data analyst can provide statistical information on patients and determine trends that can be used to improve health outcomes."

The skills of health information management (HIM) professionals, especially professionals in health informatics who are experts in developing, implementing and evaluating health information technology systems, are tailor-made for the job of a data analyst. Health informatics professionals can use their expertise with information technology to compile and interpret data from those systems. By examining data, a data analyst can provide statistical information on patients and determine trends that can be used to improve health outcomes.

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But you don’t have to be a health informatics professional to begin a career in data analysis. Even if you don’t already have a career in HIM, there are a number of ways to gain the skills and experience needed for a career in data analysis, including:

  1. Pursue a degree in health information management.

  2. Pursue opportunities for on the job experience with data analysis.

  3. Seek a credential in data analytics that demonstrates mastery of data analysis.

A data analyst may have a variety of educational or work backgrounds. Job descriptions for a mid-level health care data analyst may require a college degree, as well as experience in data management and computer applications. Aspiring data analysts may want to consider obtaining further education in statistics, information analysis or other related fields like computer science. Traditional coursework could also be combined with hands-on experience, or on-the-job training with computer applications and software. Employers may offer training to eligible employees to assist them in developing data analysis skills.