Health Care Data Analyst Career Spotlight

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A health care data analyst prepares a report on a laptop.

Data analysts across all industries are in high demand, and nowhere is that more evident than in health care, as big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and business intelligence (BI) tools drive innovation throughout health care delivery and management. Pursuing an advanced degree, such as a master’s in health administration, can provide aspiring health data analysts with a foundation for understanding the intersection of data and health care and how health care leaders use data in every department to support strategy and decision-making.

What Does a Health Care Data Analyst Do?

Health care data comes from hundreds if not thousands of sources, including electronic health records (EHRs); patient prescriptions; population health metrics; and consumer products, such as smartwatches. None of this data is useful, however, until it’s managed, cleaned (the process by which data analysts remove errors) and integrated into a database that can be analyzed.
Consider some responsibilities of a health care data analyst.

Data Maintenance and Cleaning

Health data analysts are responsible for “data wrangling,” or maintaining the integrity of the data that an organization depends on. A recent JAMA Network Open survey showed that 1 in 5 patients reported finding a mistake in their doctor’s visit notes. Data errors included incorrect test results and outdated prescription information.

Data Analysis, Modeling and Visualization

Besides data wrangling, analysts analyze, model and visualize data to produce answers to health care questions. They use the analysis to provide insights into care quality and effectiveness, support clinical diagnoses, track expenditures and cost of care, reduce medical errors, and improve patient outcomes.

Creative Problem-Solving

Possibly the most important attribute of a health care data analyst is the ability to identify the problem that a data query is trying to solve. This ability is where a background in health care administration is vital. Health data analysts must understand health care operations and goals, from clinical care outcomes to financial management to even marketing, community relations and donor relations.
Before data analysts can run a report, they must use creative thinking to establish the right query to produce usable results.

Producing Reports

After data analysts identify a problem and establish how health data can provide answers or insights, they produce a report to present what that data shows about possible solutions. Data analysts run reports as requested by stakeholders. They also use their health care administration education and experience to identify promising areas of investigation.
Some health data reports include the following:
● Patient outcomes. By measuring how patients respond to different treatment methods, health data analysis can identify health trends and improve quality of care.
● Financial expenditures. Health finance administrators use data analysis to track an organization’s financial health.
● Scheduling and staffing. Administrators can use data analytics to help forecast demand and identify potential issues, such as missed appointments or overscheduling.
● BI. Health care administrators combine doctor’s visits, diagnoses, billing and payment, and other factors to understand the state of their operations and to make data-driven decisions.
● Risk management. Hospital risk management executives track medical errors and other metrics to quantify and manage risk.
● Population health metrics. Health experts consider big data an important part of the solution to population health management. Community health care professionals use patient data along with environmental, social and poverty data to track health trends.

Health Data Analysis Tools

Health care data analysts may use tools such as SQL, Tableau or Python to visualize data in graph or chart form. Health data dashboards make it possible to visualize various data sets in an easy-to-read interface. These dashboards perform the important job of putting data in context.

How to Become a Health Care Data Analyst

Health care professionals and others who want to become health care data analysts will need at least a bachelor’s degree, such as in health administration or computer science, with coursework in data management, interpretation, and reporting. Employers often prefer to hire data analysts with a master’s degree, such as an Executive Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree.
Aspiring health care data analysts will need experience in using tools such as Tableau and Python and data dashboards that facilitate data visualization. Individuals may also benefit from earning an industry certification, such as the Certified Health Data Analyst credential from the American Health Information Management Association.

Health Care Data Analyst Salary

The demand for health care data analysis is booming, leading to high demand for health data analysts. According to Grand View Research, the worldwide $25.9 billion health care data analytics market is expected to grow by 7.5% annually between 2020 and 2027. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of operations research analysts, including health care data analysts, will grow by 25% between 2019 and 2029.
According to May 2021 data from PayScale, the median health care data analyst salary is about $64,000 annually.

Interview with a Health Analytics Professional

Younes Injar, USC Master of Health Administration (MHA) Class of 2010, spoke to the USC Executive MHA Blog about her postgraduate career as a data consultant for Membership, Market and Sales Analytics (MMSA) at Kaiser Permanente Health Plan.

EMHA Blog: What Role Do You Play at Kaiser Permanente?

Injar: Kaiser Permanente is known in the industry as a high-performing benchmark. Kaiser consistently rates high in areas such as quality, member and customer satisfaction, innovation, technology, and efficiency. Kaiser Permanente has also been on several “best places to work” lists and continues to attract and retain top talent, on both the Medical Group and Health Plan sides. I chose Kaiser Permanente, not only because it is a recognized leading health plan, but its corporate culture inspires continual growth and innovation. My role as a data consultant is to provide analytic support for developing new market strategies to grow Kaiser Permanente’s membership in the new ACA environment.

EMHA Blog: How Would You Describe a Typical Day at Work?

Injar: I have three specific perspectives I take into account on a day-to-day basis.
● Client focus. My daily job involves providing standard reports and services on time and accurately. I also proactively look for opportunities to innovate both individually and as a team, as Kaiser Permanente is always evolving and changing. In recent years, the health care industry has seen a lot of change, and Kaiser Permanente has been at the forefront. Kaiser Permanente is an organization that never stops evolving.
● National perspective. My team approaches its work with a national perspective. Our goal is to establish standards and consistency in partnership with functional colleagues in California and our five regions (Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Mid-Atlantic and Northwest).
● Extending impact. In addition to analytics, I take on projects that extend our reach to new markets and new technologies, which allows us to capture, store, retrieve, analyze and save data in ways to potentially gain new insights and new ways of doing business.

Become a Health Data Analyst: Explore Your Path

If being at the forefront of change in the thriving health care industry appeals to you, an advanced degree in health care administration is a great step toward that goal. Designed for mid- to senior-level professionals, USC’s Executive Master of Health Administration program teaches practical skills and effective leadership tactics. The program’s curriculum focuses on the importance and use of data in improving care delivery, financial and operations management decision-making, population health trends, and more. Find out how you can shape the future of health care with the Executive MHA from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.

Recommended Readings

7 Ways to Improve Patient Outcomes

Health Care Administration: Lasting Impacts from COVID-19



AHIMA, Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA)

Analytics Vidhya, “A Quick Guide to Become a Data Analyst”

Beckers Hospital Review, “10 Emerging Trends in Health IT for 2021”

Datapine, Healthcare Dashboard Examples

Health Catalyst, “The Number One Skill for a Healthcare Data Analyst”

Health Catalyst, “The Top Four Skills of an Effective Healthcare Analyst”

Grand View Research, Healthcare Analytics Market Size, Share, & Trends Analysis Report by Type (Descriptive, Predictive), by Component (Hardware, Services), by Delivery Mode (On-Premises, Cloud-Based), by Application, by End-Use, and Segment Forecasts, 2020-2027

JAMA Network Open, “Frequency and Types of Patient-Reported Errors in Electronic Health Record Ambulatory Care Notes”

PayScale, Average Health Data Analyst Salary

RTInsights, “Why Python Is Essential for Data Analysis”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Operations Research Analysts

X by 2, Data and Analytics Platform