Pros and Cons of Becoming a Medical Data Analyst
As a medical data analyst, you can play a vital role in ensuring that patient information remains secure, organized and easily accessible to authorized personnel. Following is a list of more pros and cons that can help you determine whether or not this profession is suitable for you.
|Pros of Becoming a Medical Data Analyst|
|No direct patient care involved*|
|No certification or licensure required**|
|Good earning potential (highest percentage earned about $80,000 as of January 2016)***|
|Faster-than-average job growth for the field (15% projected from 2014-2024)*|
|Cons of Becoming a Medical Data Analyst|
|Many positions require several years of experience**|
|Usually requires sitting at computer station for long periods of time*|
|Typically requires strong skills in various software programs and tools**|
|May work evening or overnight shift in a 24-hour facility*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Job Postings for Dec 2012, ***PayScale.com
Medical data analysts are health information technology professionals who are responsible for the accurate documentation of health records, secure transfer of patient files and maintenance of electronic health record (EHR) systems. These professionals typically work for hospitals, doctor's offices and health information management companies. Some job duties you may have in this role include encrypting, uploading and backing-up files, configuring and testing EHR systems and applications, implementing solutions for health information management problems, preparing reports and using structured query language (SQL) to design databases.
According to PayScale.com, most data analysts in general earned a salary ranging from about $38,000-$80,000, as of January 2016. Statistical data on the projected employment outlook specifically for medical data analysts were not available. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that from 2014-2024, medical records and health information technicians were expected to see a 15% increase in employment. One of the reasons for this growth was due to an adult population that is aging.
What Are Employers Looking For?
According to most job postings, you usually need to have a bachelor's degree to work as a medical data analyst. Some common majors for this occupation include computer science, information systems and health information management. According to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), medical data analysts need to have technical skills in areas such as data mining, data modeling and database designing. Employers also look for candidates with good programming skills and knowledge of statistics. Additionally, employers usually require that you have experience with computer programs such as Microsoft Access and Excel, Oracle PL/SQL, NextGen and Crystal Reports.
Job Postings from Real Employer
Most job postings showed that you typically need to have at least three years of related experience to become a medical data analyst. Job postings also revealed that many employers are looking for candidates with experience in SQL. Following is a list of postings that can give you some insight into what real employers were looking for during December of 2012.
- A healthcare company in Michigan is looking for a data analyst to assist in managing health information. The candidate must have a bachelor's degree, preferably in information systems, at least three years of related work experience and familiarity with data encryption techniques. Job duties include maintaining insurance company and customer enrollment files, ensuring secure file transfer protocols, building data analysis tools and managing client expectations for timely data uploads.
- A healthcare youth services company in Pennsylvania wants to hire a candidate with at least one year of experience in data warehouse management and a bachelor's degree in computer science. The candidate will be responsible for designing, coding and testing documentation, collecting data and creating reports. The candidate must also have experience with software programs such as Microsoft Excel, Oracle PL/SQL and Crystal Reports. The employer is offering $50,000 annually.
- A California health systems organization is seeking a health data analyst with 3-5 years of experience in healthcare analytics and strong working knowledge of SQL. Job duties include developing data reporting definitions and standards, performing data modeling to analyze healthcare costs and identifying health data trends.
- A private physician practice in Atlanta, GA, is looking for a data analyst with experience in SQL. The employer wants to hire someone with 3-7 years of experience and a 4-year degree. Job duties include configuring systems and applications, implementing file backups, writing SQL queries, performing data scrubbing and preparing reports.
How to Stand Out in the Field
You can gain a competitive advantage in this field by obtaining the Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA) credential from the AHIMA. You can become eligible for the CHDA exam if you have a 2-year degree and at least five years of experience, a 4-year degree and a minimum of 3 years of experience or a doctorate degree and 1 year of experience. If you have a current Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) or Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification from the AHIMA and 1-3 years of experience, you may also qualify for the CHDA examination.
Since a bachelor's degree is typically the minimum education required to become a medical data analyst, you can also stand out by completing a master's degree program in a related discipline. Some relevant programs you may consider include a Master of Science in Health Information Management, Health Informatics or Health Information Technology.
Other Careers to Consider
Medical Records Technician
You can also maintain patient information as a medical records technician. Although medical records technicians and medical data analysts share some similar job duties, the two positions are distinct from each other. For example, medical records technicians are generally responsible for coding and organizing data, while medical data analysts are responsible for configuring and implementing systems that store data. In addition, a postsecondary certificate is usually the minimum educational requirement for medical records technicians. As of May 2011, the BLS reported that medical records technicians earned a median salary of about $33,000.
If you enjoy working with medical information, you might also consider becoming a medical transcriptionist. In this position, you will listen to audio files dictated by medical professionals to generate reports containing patient information. Your job will also include translating medical jargon and abbreviations, which requires having a good understanding of medical terminology. Most professionals who work in this field complete a medical transcription postsecondary training program, according to the BLS. As of May 2011, the BLS noted that medical transcriptionists earned a median wage of approximately $33,000. In the decade of 2010-2020, these professionals were expected to have a six percent growth in employment, according to the BLS.