Healthcare Data Analyst Roles and Responsibilities

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Healthcare data analyst roles and responsibilities extend across the scope of a given healthcare organization. Unfortunately, many healthcare data analysts lack the tools to appropriately analyze data. Healthcare organizations may think the role of healthcare data analyst is simple and requires little input; however, the skillset becomes useless if the healthcare organization fails to appropriately manage their data.

Healthcare Data Analyst Definition

A healthcare data analyst is a person who collects, manages, and analyzes clinical to improve the quality of care for patients. This definition is nearly a mirror-image of a health information technician, as explained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Healthcare data analysts, who may actually have a degree in health information management, are responsible for the following activities:

  • Reviewing patient records for accuracy, completeness, appropriate documentation, and timeliness
  • Maintaining organization and management of healthcare data
  • Assigning clinical codes to clinical data for use in healthcare data analysis. This roles is not as code-extensive as a medical billing and coding specialist
  • Record data into the electronic health record for collection, storage, and analysis
  • Maintain security and privacy of protected health information

Analyzing Healthcare Data

Healthcare organizations will benefit from the use of clinical data to manage and improve their standard of care, asserts the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, healthcare organizations will be able to receive incentive payments for the adoption of interoperable health information technology and electronic health records. Essentially, interoperable health information technology is the sharing of healthcare data across multiple settings, and the electronic health record is central variable for changes within healthcare data.

For a healthcare data analyst, data from differing sources, which may be independent EHRs from multiple facilities, needs to be collected into a single resource. This resource, such as an enterprise data warehouse, as explained by Mr. Staheli, allows the healthcare data analyst to rapidly identify variations between similar patient experiences and how future experiences can be improved. As a result, changes in policy and procedure will reduce costs in healthcare and minimize errors in patient treatment.
Furthermore, a healthcare data analyst carries the weight of quality-based measurements and reporting for a given healthcare organization. For example, the healthcare organization may want to collect information on readmission rates. However, accurate readmission rates must take new diagnoses and conditions that were previously non-existent into account. This prevents officials from CMS from assuming healthcare staff did not fully evaluate a person’s condition prior to discharge. To fully understand how this principle works, consider the following example:

A patient is discharged with gastritis without any indicators of appendicitis. After two days, the patient is readmitted for severe stomach pain. The physicians diagnose the patient with appendicitis and recommend an appendectomy. An initial report would seem to identify the patient’s readmission as the result of poor judgment at discharge. However, a clinical data analyst may be able to identify if outside factors contributed to the progression of appendicitis without a direct correlation to the diagnosis of gastritis. An extreme example could be severe food poisoning from a local venue on the day after discharge.

Future of Healthcare Data Analysts

As more healthcare organizations move to EHRs to take advantage of CMS payments, more healthcare analysts will be needed. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), healthcare organizations will want to switch to an interoperable system. This will allow data capture, data provisioning, and data analysis at a fraction of the time of an organization without such a system. In a sense, the AAFP has made an indirect recommendation for the use of an enterprise data warehouse to aggregate all clinical data for processing.

Healthcare data analysts will be constant aspect of modern healthcare, especially with more incentive programs set to rise in coming years. The healthcare data analyst’s roles and responsibilities may change from organization to organization. However, their overall goal will be to maintain patient safety while minimizing cost and maximizing adherence to federal healthcare statutes.