IN THE FAST-PACED world of emergency medicine, it’s hard
to conjure a metric that’s more important to both prospective
patients and clinicians than emergency department (ED) wait
times. It’s a key indicator of the quality of care delivered, as
well as a valuable piece of marketing strategy, as health systems have started to put their wait times on everything from
their websites to billboards.
Susan White, PhD, RHIA, CHDA, administrator of analytics at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center,
is part of a data analytics team that has created a dashboard
for clinicians that helps them monitor and measure ED efficiency.
“Dashboards help them see whether we’re triaging lower level
of severity patients quickly enough and keeping them moving.
Or if we want to see how quickly someone with strep gets a culture done and is moved out. Dashboards let them see, for example, that 80 percent of our level 1 patients were seen by a nurse
practitioner, so they’re able to measure the impact of process
improvements,” White says.
This is just one small example of the ways in which data analytics is being used across the healthcare industry, and one
where health information management (HIM) professionals’
skills are in demand. White frequently has to compete with her
organization’s data warehouse to get RHIA-credentialed professionals on her analytics team. HIM professionals are well-suited
for data analytics jobs because they understand how healthcare
operations work, how care is reimbursed, and how and where
data is stored—and they possess the clinical knowledge to understand the stories coded data tell.
“The most impressive cohort of critical thinkers I’ve ever met
are HIM people. They are cynical about the data so they’ll test
things, they’ll wonder why. When I look for even an entry level
analytics person, I want them to be a good critical thinker. And
then I can get them the technical skills,” White says.
While opportunities exist for doing general data analytics
in large healthcare systems, there are other more focused areas where HIM professionals can get involved with analytics
to improve operations and care. HIM professionals are doing
data analytics in niche spaces such as long-term care, cancer
registries and tumor boards, pediatric physician practices,
payer organizations, renal care operators, and accountable
care organizations (ACOs), as well as in public health organizations analyzing population health.
For example, cancer and trauma programs are required to
maintain a certain amount of data and report it to the central
registry—which is where the country gets its national data.
To maintain a tumor board to receive required accredita-
tion—and assess treatments—cancer registries need to use
data to determine whether a treatment plan is appropriate for
patients and if they are responding. Payers are another niche
area and have begun hiring data analysts to look at the data on
their subscribers and watch for care patterns, alerting people,
for example, if they are due for a visit with their provider.
Data analytics is a natural progression for HIM professionals—they are already familiar with the coded data and are
used to working with the contents of the clinical record. This
article discusses program-specific types of data analytics work
and how these niches provide an opportunity for HIM professionals to work with data and analyze how specialty areas can
Long-Term Care Analytics
When Nathan Patrick Taylor, MS, MPH, CHDA, CPHIMS, director of data science and analytics at Symphony Health, started
working at his first true analytics job in 2010 at a company where
he installed electronic health records (EHRs) in community
healthcare clinics, the term “data analytics” wasn’t widely used
yet. It was called “dashboarding and reporting.” In addition to
installing EHRs, he also did quality metric performance measurements and got an early glimpse at how artificial intelligence
and machine learning would soon be part of the data landscape.
But as part of that job he had to become familiar with clinical
coding languages such as ICD- 9, SNOMED, and LOINC, and
that has helped him in his current role building data analysis
tools and dashboards for long-term care facilities.
In long-term care, data analytics plays a crucial role in report-
Getting Started in Analytics
HIM PROFESSIONALS LOOKING to break into the data
field should take self-paced learning programs to get
up to speed on analytics and first look for openings and
opportunities in their own organizations. For example,
HIM professionals should watch for data integrity specialist positions that open at their organization, which is
a great fit for HIM. These positions are often a springboard to getting more involved in the data analytics
field. Or if a hospital is starting a trauma registry program in the ED, HIM professionals could apply for that
position, which can often include entry-level roles. Finally, more organizations are starting to use dashboards
to track analytics and quality—and that’s an area where
HIM professionals can step in and get experience in
data analytics, learn the software (usually Tableau), and
get their foot in the door.
SPECIALTY AND NON-ACUTE DATA ANALYTICS INITIATIVES OFFER
FOCUS AND OPPORTUNITY FOR HIM
By Mary Butler