Understanding how to best use data can help you become successful in the world of health information management

Data fuels the modern world. And those who know how to gather and interpret that data can be the engines of success for their organizations. This is as true in the healthcare industry as it is everywhere else. In fact, data has become so important in healthcare that the field of health informatics is expected to grow at twice the rate of employment overall.* Which is to say, health analysts in the public and private sectors are in high demand, with the true experts becoming increasingly valuable. What do you need to know to become a successful health analyst? Here are seven of the most important skills you’ll need.

  1. How to Capture Data
    Think of data like an apple tree. To harvest the apples, you don’t rip up the whole tree. You select only the apples themselves and you do so in a manner that is efficient (you wouldn’t hit the tree with a stick and hope the apples fall) and doesn’t tear the apples apart. To capture usable data, you have to ensure that you’re capturing what you intend to capture, that it’s in the proper format, and that it’s being captured effectively and efficiently.
  2. How to Provision Data
    It’s rare that a professional in the medical informatics field will require only one piece of data. Typically, you need multiple points of data in order to properly understand a situation and create solutions and/or ideas for improvement. This means you need to understand which points of data are required and where to get them. For instance, if you are working in a physician’s clinic and want to improve patient wait times, you would want not just the wait times themselves but also the corresponding data on patient diagnoses, exam room allocation, how much time nurses and doctors spend physically in the room, checkout procedure variances, etc. You can only see a complete picture when you acquire enough meaningful data points.
  3. How to Use an Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW)
    Data capturing and provisioning can become complicated if your organization uses multiple health information technology platforms that don’t speak to one another. If billing information is stored in one place and patient charts in another and insurance payments in yet another, you will spend a lot of your time manually bringing everything together. That is why EDWs are so important to the success of health information management. If you have an EDW and know how to use it, you can save yourself time and avoid the risk of missing important data due to its inaccessibility.
  4. How to Use a Testing Environment
    The data stored in an EDW is just the beginning. The greatest benefit is the ability to manipulate and add to that data in whatever way you desire. The analysis process becomes much easier if you can sort, combine, and chart data in a myriad of ways. Solid health information technology allows you to do so and you need to be well versed in the technology.
  5. How to Use Data Discovery Tools
    Computers can process information much faster than our brains. If you’re working with a huge amount of data and are seeking specific combinations of data (e.g., you want to pull every instance a physician did a well-woman exam and how long that exam took), knowing how to use data discovery tools can help you find what you need in a matter of minutes or seconds. These tools can even locate variances in the data and help you uncover patterns you might not otherwise recognize.
  6. How to Analyze Data
    It may seem obvious, but to be a successful health informatics analyst you have to know how to analyze the data you gather. But analysis is more than just looking at a big pile of data and drawing conclusions. You have to be able to:
    • Evaluate quality: Is the data you’ve gathered accurate? Is it comprehensive? Is it statistically relevant?
    • Sort through information: Are there meaningful oddities and/or trends in the data?
    • Interpret findings: What do the oddities and/or trends reveal? What’s affecting them? Are they a positive or a negative?
  7. How to Present Findings and Solutions
    Most people in the healthcare industry are not trained analysts. Many aren’t even aware of the importance of health informatics. That’s why, once you analyze data, you have to know how to present your findings in a way that is consumable by your organization’s decision-makers. If you make your findings easy to understand, most people will grasp their importance. Likewise, if you present your solutions in a way that clearly communicates why those solutions are necessary, you’re far more likely to get buy-in than if you’re unclear.

Where Can You Acquire These Skills?

Whether you want to work for a private practice, a hospital group, an insurance company, or as a public health analyst, you could greatly benefit from earning a health informatics degree. Specifically, an MS in Information Technology with a health informatics specialization can help you acquire the skills you need to succeed as a health analyst.† Through an IT-driven master’s in health informatics program, you can learn about health information management, health information technology, and all the ways you can use data to help improve our healthcare system at the micro and macro levels.

Thanks to online universities, earning your master’s in information technology is more possible than ever before. You can enroll in an MS degree program from home and complete your coursework while continuing to work in your current job. Plus, online learning can save you both time and money, helping you earn your degree faster so you can start your health analyst career sooner.

The modern healthcare system needs skilled health analysts to help keep the industry running. With an online master’s in information technology with a health informatics specialization, you can learn how to use data in a way that helps your organization succeed.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Information Technology online program with a health informatics specialization. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

*Burning Glass, Careers in Focus, Missed Opportunities? The Labor Market in Health Informatics, 2014, on the Internet at http://burning-glass.com/research/health-informatics-2014

†Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of a degree program. Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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