As healthcare operations have adopted more innovative technology, the need for data analysts to collect and interpret vast amounts of information has increased.
While some medical facilities may hire a technology team, they typically bring in an outsider to handle the more complex and specialized data analytics duties.
This has opened up opportunities for those with health informatics degrees and training in healthcare-related technologies.
Just as other businesses look to drive better outcomes by leveraging data, hospitals look to data for streamlining processes and improving quality of care for patients.
Types of Healthcare Data
Healthcare data is an all-encompassing term that could apply to any number of projects within a hospital or other medical facility.
For example, data is collected on patients and stored in electronic healthcare records systems. This system places all of a patient’s information in one place, where it can be accessed by doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. The collection of this data, its secure storage and its ability to be shared across different devices is one area where data consultants work.
Another is collection and storage of data from wearable technology. Many medical devices now have the capability of sending information to medical workers, data that must be collected, stored, properly tagged and made available to professionals on various devices.
Data also is used in bigger projects, such as determining changes in healthcare practices by collecting and analyzing data on patient outcomes. This involves looking at very large data sets, analyzing and interpreting them. In some cases, consultants work with executives on overall healthcare strategies
Roles For Health Data Consultants
Health data consultants can work in many different areas depending on their expertise. Some of these may include:
- Collecting and analyzing patient data for research
- Interpreting that data and making recommendations to medical administrators on potential changes in how care is delivered
- Advising on new technologies available for medical operations to use
- Streamlining data collection and sharing across different departments in large medical operations
- Developing methods to streamline billing operations
- Developing reports on health care utilization and unit-cost measurements
Those represent just a few examples. Data collection can be used in so many different ways that it’s impossible to quantify the job in simple terms.
Suffice it to say that data consultants will need to have the flexibility to work with hospital administrators on whatever projects they deem necessary. In most cases, because they are the experts in the field, data consultants will help guide medical administrators in how to use data and also on new technologies the companies should adopt.
Skills, Education and Salaries
Those who wish to work as data consultants in healthcare need to have expert-level knowledge in data collection, storage and interpretation.
They also need advanced knowledge in the latest software programs used for data collection and analysis.
Solid communication and “soft skills” also benefit consultants. As workers from outside the company, they must clearly communicate what they are providing and have the ability to work with teams at both the executive and managerial levels.
These positions typically require at least a bachelor’s degree. Many consulting companies prefer those with a master’s degree for positions of more responsibility. These degrees can be in areas such as health informatics, computer science or related fields.
Salary and Job Outlook
Salaries for this job are not yet tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is considered the primary source for accurate information on salaries and job growth.
The BLS does list salary and job information for statisticians, which the federal government describes as those who collect and analyze data. They project a staggering 34% increase in the number of statisticians between 2014 and 2024. They also list the average salary in May 2016 as $85,160.
Those looking into becoming health data consultants can feel assured that the number of jobs in the field will continue to grow, and that medical operations will continue to find new uses for their work.