Health data management is revolutionizing the way doctors, hospitals, and other providers manage patient care. Experts in the healthcare industry, government, and information technology agree that data management is critical to improving the quality of healthcare delivery while reducing costs. However, the vast quantity of data generated by patients and providers — called big data — poses a challenge to healthcare leaders.
A Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Administration can help prepare professionals for a career in data management for the healthcare industry.
The Definition of Health Data Management
Health data management, also called clinical data management or health information management, is the management of the collection, storage, and analysis of patient data. This data includes demographic information (name, age, address, gender), medical history and treatments (family history, doctor visits), and administrative information (billing, scheduling, insurance, Medicare coding).
According to one estimate, a single patient generates over 80 megabytes of data each year. This data is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and must be secured to protect patient privacy. This is an additional responsibility of health data managers.
Healthcare data may come from a variety of sources.
Electronic Health Records
Electronic health records (EHRs) hold patient files. Traditionally, these were paper files. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 required providers to move to EHR systems with the goal of streamlining patient recordkeeping. EHRs include all health, clinical, and demographic information.
Electronic Medical Records
Electronic medical records (EMRs) are similar to EHRs. However, hospitals tend to use EMRs, and these records don’t always include the patient’s entire medical history. Upon a patient’s admission, doctors and nurses have access to their EMR, which includes why they are in the hospital and details of their current status, treatment, and medical care.
Public Health Data
Increasingly, the healthcare industry is gathering population data, which includes the overall health of a region. This region can be as pinpointed as a ZIP code or the community that a particular health center serves. It can also be as vast as a state or nation.
Imaging data includes results of X-rays, MRIs, mammograms, and other scans. Mammograms have mostly gone to digital imaging capture. Dentists now have the option to use digital X-rays rather than film; this technology uses less radiation and dentists can view the results almost instantly.
Administrative and Demographic Data
Administrative data includes billing, insurance, reimbursement, scheduling, and payment information. This data requires a great deal of security, as it includes sensitive information such as credit card and Social Security numbers.
A new source of health data is wearables — electronic devices that can track user activity and information. Some of these wearables are consumer devices such as Fitbits. Others are medical devices such as mobile heart monitors.
Research and Clinical Trials
Another subset of health data management includes the results of clinical trials and other research data. This data is usually anonymized — that is, it should not be traceable to a specific study participant. However, in some instances the information can be cross-checked against other databases, which can allow for participant identification.
Healthcare administrators use healthcare dashboards to analyze data, which helps support decision-making. These software tools let administrators identify trends in patient and community health, determine staffing levels based on demand, monitor financials such as billing and insurance reimbursements, schedule follow-up care, and other administrative tasks. Some examples include:
- Financial dashboard: Financial administrators can track insurance claims through the financial dashboard.
- Patient dashboard: Medical leaders can get a better understanding of health trends in their individual patients and overall patient population in the patient dashboard.
- Services dashboard: Administrators can get an overview of demand for their various services in the services dashboard, which can support business decisions.
What Do Health Data Managers Do?
Proper management of an organization’s vast sea of data can determine its value. Healthcare data managers are responsible for ensuring that the healthcare data they provide to administrators is accurate, secure, and up to date. They may supervise data analysts and health information technologists, ensuring data accuracy and assisting with data management tasks.
Health data managers’ employment opportunities extend beyond hospitals. They are also employed by medical research facilities, long-term care facilities, public health agencies, healthcare nonprofits, and similar organizations. They may support these organizations in the following areas of emphasis:
Health data managers must ensure data quality. In a survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 1 in 5 patients reported a mistake in their doctor’s notes. Data errors described included incorrect test results and outdated prescriptions. Managers must make sure that their organization’s data is free of mistakes.
Healthcare data falls under HIPAA and other privacy laws. Data managers ensure that only authorized personnel can access patient data. They also keep on top of advances in technology to make sure that their organization’s data is not vulnerable to sophisticated hacks or even physical security breaches.
Data Analysis and Modeling
Health data managers analyze, model, and visualize data. They then present the data in reports to administrators and executives, who use it to support their decision-making and strategy creation.
Health data managers should be problem-solvers. They combine their background in data analysis with their experience in healthcare administration to find creative solutions to challenges. They use data to support recommendations in areas that range from clinical care to financial management and even marketing and donor relations.
Requirements for Health Data Managers
Many healthcare data managers, clinical data managers, and health information managers have some sort of background in healthcare. They often have clinical or nursing backgrounds or have years of administrative experience. Managers may also start their data careers as healthcare data analysts.
Most positions require at least a bachelor’s degree, although employers may favor candidates who hold master’s degrees. In addition to having a relevant background, prospective health data managers should have numerical, analytical, and technical skills to be able to accurately assess, organize, and interpret data sets.
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers a variety of certifications, including the CHPS (certified in healthcare privacy and security) and CHDA (certified health data analyst) designations. Depending on the certificate, prospective candidates may need certain prerequisites, such as a degree and six months’ experience, before sitting for the exam.
Job Outlook and Salary for Health Data Managers
Increasing reliance on EHRs will create a continuing demand for professionals well-versed in health data management. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of jobs for all medical and health services managers, including information and data managers, will grow 32% between 2020 and 2030. According to PayScale, the median salary of healthcare data managers, also called clinical data managers, is about $76,000, as of August 2021.
Become a Health Data Manager
Are you interested in making a difference in healthcare? Do you want to be part of the cutting edge in data management? Explore AdventHealth University Online’s Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Administration. Discover how this program can provide professionals with the skills they need for a rewarding career in data management today.