As the amount of data generated by individuals and collected by hospitals and health systems increases, effective and secure health information management (HIM) becomes a bigger concern. Both health care data analysts and health informaticists work with patient health information. However, professionals in these two disciplines interact with data in different ways and the skills and degrees needed to excel within them vary.
What’s the difference between health care data analytics and health informatics?
One of the keys to understanding the differences of these disciplines is to look at how they interact with one another.
For example, someone working in health informatics might evaluate the technology behind a health system, and implement new tools or processes to effectively collect data. Then, a health care data analyst would investigate the data collected to find patterns and trends that can be reported on and used for high-level decision-making.
Health informaticists plan for and administer health information technology (IT) systems while health care data analysts analyze the data collected by those systems to make educated recommendations for changes.
Health care data analytics
Data analytics is the science of evaluating data to make conclusions about that information. Health care data analytics deals specifically with the analysis and investigation of health information which includes data related to a person’s medical history, including symptoms, diagnoses, procedures, and outcomes.1 It can also include billing information and basic demographics.
Data analysts are typically working to make predictions that can be inferred through evaluating large sets of information. You may know that business analysts interpret data to make decisions that will help companies run more efficiently and increase the company’s profit. Similarly, health care data analysts help to make health systems, insurers and other organizations work more efficiently but also to identify at-risk patient populations, predict recidivism and improve outcomes.
Applying health care data analytics
In 2020, a team from Cedars-Sinai developed a system that tracks local hospitalization volumes and the rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases, running multiple forecasting models to help anticipate and prepare for increasing COVID-19 patient volumes with 85 to 95 percent degree of accuracy.2 This type of information gives hospital administrators and staff the ability to free up rooms, prepare clinicians and make sure intake procedures are in place to properly handle the incoming volume of patients.
Other uses of health care data analytics include3:
- Detecting diseases at earlier stages when they can be treated more easily and effectively
- Managing specific individual and population health and detecting health care fraud more quickly and efficiently.
- Predicting length of stay, patients who will choose elective surgery or patients who likely will not benefit from surgery
- Predicting patients at risk for medical complications including sepsis, MRSA, C. difficile, or other hospital-acquired illness
- Predicting and identifying disease progression
- Identifying causal factors of disease progression and possible comorbid conditions
- Analyzing large numbers of claim requests to reduce fraud, waste and abuse
- Combining clinical, financial and operational data together to analyze resource utilization
From that list alone, it’s clear health data analytics has the potential to massively disrupt the health care industry for the better. That’s why we say that ultimately, health care data analytics has the power to save lives.
What skills are necessary to work in health care data analytics?
While you may be able to find an entry-level position in health care data analytics, it’s worth considering a master’s degree if you want to rise to positions with more responsibility or if your goal is to one day attain a leadership role in the C-suite. Health care data analytics can also be a good role for someone with previous experience on the clinical side of care who wants to move to an office position with a wider impact.
A health care data analytics curriculum will likely include courses in:
- Business intelligence
- Visual analytics
- Data programming
- Health care technology
- Survey of the health care system
If you’re dedicated to a career that makes meaningful changes or helps the most vulnerable, you should also look for a master’s program that includes ethics courses in its curriculum. Ethical use of data, especially in health care, is a critical issue that you will come face-to-face with in a health care data analytics career.
Hopefully you now have a solid idea of what health care data analytics is and many of the powerful ways it can be wielded. But you might be wondering, how is all of this data actually collected?
That’s where health informatics come in.
The field of health informatics is the integration of healthcare sciences, computer science, information science, and cognitive science to assist in the management of healthcare information.4 Health informatics help to bridge the gap between technology and clinical processes by using software and designed systems to streamline operations.
Applying health informatics
Health informatics professionals use their knowledge of information systems, databases and information technology to help design effective technology systems that gather, store, interpret, and manage the data that is generated in the provision of healthcare to patients.5
According to the American Health Information Management Association, informaticists use knowledge of health system structure and operations, information technology, secondary data use and technology to impact technological system design for efficient clinical care.
It’s very common for health informaticists and data analysts to collaborate on work to make sure that the informaticists are collecting the right information for the analysts to use.
What skills are necessary to work in health informatics?
In comparison to health care data analytics, health informatics is a field oriented more for individuals interested in working with technology systems rather than data. Individuals interested in health informatics careers can also enter the field with a bachelor’s degree, but may wish to pursue a secondary degree to further their career.
A health informatics curriculum is likely to include courses in:
- Information systems
- Project management
- Health care IT administration
- Research methods
Which health information management field should you pursue?
A career in either health care data analytics or health informatics could lead to interesting non-clinical opportunities in health care. While health informatics is ideal for those who would prefer to work primarily with technology in an IT-like capacity, health care data analytics is a great career option for those interested in the patient experience and making big-picture improvements to health care.
Pursue a meaningful career in health care
Marquette’s online Master of Science in Health Care Data Analytics will prepare you for the dynamic career you’re looking for. Presented via our intuitive learning management system, D2L, our curriculum features equal credits in computing and health care courses for a well-rounded education. In D2L, you can complete coursework, track your grades, view lectures, submit assignments and participate in discussion entirely online from wherever you’re located, so you don’t have to put your life on hold while you work toward your career goals.
Plus, as a Jesuit university, we’re also committed to making the world a better place through education. A thread of our service and community-oriented values can be found in all courses and as a student in the health care data analytics program, you’ll study ethics in health care and how to responsibly and safely use data.
Be on your way to a powerful career in health care in as few as two years. Talk to an Admissions Advisor to find out more about the online M.S. in Health Care Data Analytics at Marquette or start your application today.
- Retrieved on September 8, 2021, from ahima.org/certification-careers/certifications-overview/career-tools/career-pages/health-information-101/
- Retrieved on September 14, 2021, from healthitanalytics.com/news/how-big-data-analytics-models-can-impact-healthcare-decision-making
- Raghupathi, W., & Raghupathi, V. (2014). Big data analytics in healthcare: promise and potential. Health information science and systems, 2, 3. https://doi.org/10.1186/2047-2501-2-3
- Retrieved on September 15, 2021, from himss.org/resources/healthcare-informatics
- Retrieved on September 15, 2021, from bok.ahima.org/doc?oid=302313#.YUDv755Kh6r