What Is Health Care Data? Examining a Key Concept in Modern Care

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Medical professionals gather around to discuss health care data.Careers in data science have become more and more rewarding as organizations seek to capitalize on recent technological trends. Data analysis has become an invaluable tool for employers in the field of health care. This article will examine how health care data has enabled a new generation of professionals to increase the quality of care for patients, as well as how to pursue a career in health care data.

What Is Health Care Data?

Health care data refers to a wide variety of information pertaining to patients, doctors and health care systems. The process of collecting data on topics such as patient outcomes, insurance and doctor ratings can serve to improve health care systems through the professional analysis of large data sets to draw conclusions and optimize efficiency.

The integration of data in health care began in 1969, when Dr. Lawrence Weed developed the first computerized electronic health care record. The federal government began experimenting with electronic health care records in the 1970s. In 1996, it enacted the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to help the country’s health care system transition to the wider use of electronically available health care data. By 2015, 83.8% of U.S. hospitals had implemented a basic electronic health care record system.

According to the Institute of Medicine, the types of health care data collected today include socioeconomic, environmental, biomedical and genetic factors; individual health status and health behaviors; biomedical and genetic factors; and resource use, outcomes, financing and expenditures. While the data sources have increased in number, there is still work to be done to fully integrate them and improve the quality of care.

Skills Associated With Data Analyst Roles

Since health care data is a highly technical and emerging field, data analysts must employ a specific skill set to succeed. For example, competent data analysts are adept at leveraging technology, problem-solving and written and verbal communication.

Technical and Computing Competency

What is health care data without talented data analysts to interpret it? Since health care data analysts work extensively with databases, they should be familiar with structured query language (SQL), which allows them to manipulate, search and interact with databases. Moreover, analysts must be adept at bringing separate data systems together to provide their organizations with a more holistic source of information. Data modeling and analysis are two other important technical skills for data analysts to possess. Data modeling entails the creation of real-world processes and workflows via code, and data analysis includes extracting actionable insights from data sets.

Problem-Solving Skills

Data analysts must have strong problem-solving skills, as they will often need to find creative solutions to health care-related problems. Technological development is driven by forward-thinking professionals who constantly strive to make processes more efficient. With this kind of approach, health care data analysts aim to create better responses to the unique challenges that the health care system presents.

Written and Verbal Communication

Health care data analysts are collaborators within a larger organizational framework. As such, these analysts should be able to communicate effectively with others. This skill can include the translation of highly technological subject matter into more approachable and comprehensible reports for the benefit of staff members with less tech savvy. Moreover, large problems may require the collaborative work of many different team members, so analysts should be comfortable with a consensus approach to new challenges.

Key Experiences for Career Development

To succeed as a data analyst, it is important to gain experience that enhances one’s skills and abilities.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Since data analysts must be well equipped with technical know-how, a bachelor’s degree in computer science, statistics or information technology can prepare students for invaluable work experience following graduation. Moreover, a bachelor’s degree in health information management can allow students to sit for the RHIA (Registered Health Information Administrator) exam. As a result, this degree can help individuals transition seamlessly into a professional role within a health care setting.

Gain Relevant Work Experience

Many data analyst positions require previous work experience, so it is expedient for students to pursue internship opportunities during their undergraduate studies. Positions that allow candidates to work directly with data sets and develop the capacity to code will prove valuable for long-term job prospects.

Pursue a Master’s Degree

A Master of Science in Health Informatics exposes students to tools and practices utilized throughout the health care industry. The skills students develop through their coursework will help make them valuable candidates for jobs in the field.

What Are Health Care Data Career Opportunities?

There are a variety of high-paying positions within the health informatics arena, such as chief information officer, clinical informatics director, consultant, and director of information services/information technology. A 2018 survey conducted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society found that health informatics professionals earned an average of $109,721 per year. Salaries vary based on professional and academic experience, as well as location.

The outlook for careers in health care data is positive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the field of medical records and health information technicians to grow 13% between 2016 and 2026, which is faster than the national average for all occupations.

A Rewarding Career

As health care systems continue to rely heavily on emerging data trends, careers that involve the integration and development of health care data will continue to grow. By developing strong analytical and technological skills through coursework and professional experience, candidates with a background in information technology can benefit from a wide array of health care-based opportunities as a data analyst. If you are interested in working in this field, attaining an online Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management or a Master of Science in Health Informatics could be your first step toward a rewarding career.

Recommended Readings

How Will AI in Health Care Continue to Evolve?

The Role of Data in Population Health

The Role of Health Informatics in Preventing Errors in Health Care


Discover Data Science, “How To Become a Data Analyst”

Readwrite, “The Evolution of Healthcare Data”

Health Catalyst, “6 Essential Data Analyst Skills for Your Healthcare Organization”

HIMMS, “Compensation Survey 2018”

Institute of Medicine: “U.S. Healthcare Data Today: Current State of Play”

University of Illinois at Chicago, Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management

University of Illinois at Chicago, Health Informatics Careers

University of Illinois at Chicago, Master of Science in Health Informatics

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical Records and Health Information Technicians