How to Become a Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA) - Certification and Requirements

Certified health data analysts (CHDAs) are responsible for collecting and analyzing healthcare data into useful pieces of information. They have the knowledge and skills to collect, manage, research, and transform data into timely and accurate information.

To become a CHDA, candidates must take the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) certification exam. By earning this certification, professionals can demonstrate their organizational knowledge and skills. They apply this specialized knowledge to provide actionable insights to physicians, administrators, clinical researchers, and other allied health professionals.

Healthcare data analysts are often called health information management analysts or healthcare business analysts. Their work involves gathering and interpreting data from various sources, such as electronic health records, cost reports, patient satisfaction surveys, and billing claims. Their end goal is to help organizations improve their quality of care, lower costs, and enhance their patient experience.

These professionals provide data support, conduct research, and improve information quality and accuracy using software and statistics. They may also have additional responsibilities such as automating external and internal reports, helping hospital executives understand data, and creating dashboards for presentation at the executive level.

What Do Health Data Analysts Do?

Typical duties of health data analysts include:

  • Gathering and organizing information for problem-solving
  • Interviewing personnel and conducting onsite observations to determine the methods, equipment, and personnel that will be required
  • Analyzing financials and other data
  • Developing solutions or alternative practices
  • Recommending new systems and procedures
  • Making recommendations to management through written reports or presentations
  • Conferring with managers to ensure that implemented changes are working

Data is one of the most valuable assets in an organization. However, all data collected must be used to benefit an organization. Thus, trained professionals who can collect, store, retrieve, and present data to support business decisions are indispensable for every organization. This is where healthcare data analysts come in. They help health systems, physician groups, and hospitals make important decisions such as adding a new service line, joining an Accountable Care Organization, and merging other providers.

Several clinical improvements result from insights provided by healthcare data analysts. In addition, they help vendors and insurers analyze data that guide population health management, decision-making, cost containment, and quality improvement.

Where Do Health Data Analysts Work?

Health data analysts work for health insurance companies, health systems, hospitals, large physician practice groups, healthcare consulting companies, federal and state departments, electronic health records (EHR), other health information technology vendors, and other health organizations.

In large organizations, they often work as part of a business intelligence team, reporting directly to executive leaders such as the chief financial officer or chief medical officer. In smaller organizations, they might work alone, reporting directly to the head of the company. Health data analysts can also work as senior software engineers, project managers, medical coders, senior business analysts, medical directors, project directors, assistant professors, and senior consultants, among other roles paying thought to these unique skills.

Skills & Personality Traits of Health Data Analysts

Candidates who enjoy working under pressure and solving complex problems can find the role of a health data analyst both fulfilling and challenging. One must be able to multitask in a busy environment, collaborate with various stakeholders, and communicate clearly and concisely, both verbally and in writing.

It also helps to have previous experience in healthcare. People with previous experience in healthcare are well-positioned to become health data analysts. For instance, health information management professionals are well-suited for the health data analyst position as they have experience applying medical codes to clinical data. Medical assistants and nurses can also be a good fit for this role, as they have direct clinical care experience and are familiar with clinical data.

Steps to Becoming a Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA)

Most health data analysts have at least a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree is the typical entry-level requirement for certified health data analysts, especially in a field such as HIMT (health information management and technology).

Here is one possible path to becoming a CHDA:

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (Four Years).

A bachelor’s degree program in health informatics or health information management can prepare candidates for a career in health data analysis.

Some schools offer a combination of health information management and informatics. These programs may include healthcare law and ethics courses, anatomy and physiology, and medical terminology. Sample programs include:

Rasmussen University

Rasmussen University offers an online health information management (HIM) bachelor’s degree program. This program provides students with hands-on opportunities and gives them the knowledge and skills to excel in their careers.

The 180-credit program (90 transferred lower-division credits; 24 upper-division general education credits; and 66 upper-division core credits) includes courses such as advanced quality management in healthcare; healthcare research and statistics; advanced data analytics and informatics in healthcare; electronic health record application; advanced health information leadership and management; and privacy and security in health information.

To enroll in this program, students should have earned an associate’s degree in health information technology and should possess a current RHIT credential. Those who have earned an associate’s degree in health information technology or management from a CAHIIM-accredited program within the past five years do not require RHIT credentials. Those who earned their degree over five years ago need work experience in the health information industry within the last five years and approval from the program coordinator.

Upon completing the program, graduates can take up roles such as health information services managers, privacy officers, EHR implementation specialists, healthcare informatics analysts, health information management specialists, and clinical documentation specialists.

  • Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM); Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 18 months

University of Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin offers an online bachelor’s of science program in health information management and technology (HIMT). This program provides students with health information management (HIM) and health information technology (HIT) skills. Graduates of the program will be prepared with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in today’s technology-focused healthcare environments.

This fully online bachelor’s completion program offers two tracks: health information management and health information technology. Students take 45 credits of core courses, 12 credits of track courses, one credit of capstone preparation course, and three credits of the capstone project course for a total of 61 credits.

Some of the courses in the curriculum are digital literacy in healthcare; healthcare systems and organizations; survey of information technology in healthcare; statistics for healthcare; principles of management for HIMT professionals; healthcare economics; database structures and management systems; and programming for HIMT professionals.

  • Location: Madison, Wisconsin
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM); Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 to 18 months

Dakota State University

At Dakota State University, students can complete an online master’s of science in health informatics and information management (MSHIIM). This comprehensive program prepares graduates to work as health information officers, engineer new health information management dashboards, and even design new ways to protect patient privacy.

This program boasts a 100 percent job placement rate for its graduates. Cohorts are small with approximately five students per year, and a total enrollment of under 12 students for the entire program. If attending full-time students can complete this program in four to five semesters.

Made up of 33 credits, the program includes courses such as healthcare informatics, information systems, and technology; data analytics in healthcare; legal and ethical aspects of health informatics; health information lifecycle governance; leadership and management for health informatics; research design in health informatics; and exploration of population health data in health informatics.

Applicants to the program must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum grade point average of 2.7.

  • Location: Madison, South Dakota
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM); Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months

University of Pittsburgh – School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

The online master’s in science in health informatics at the University of Pittsburg offers four different tracks, allowing students to tailor their education to their career aspirations. The four tracks are data science, general health informatics, healthcare supervision and management, and health services analytics (HSA).

The data science track is ideal for students pursuing a CHDA credential as it provides students with the tools to analyze, extract, and present data to the healthcare community. Graduates with these skills can help healthcare organizations make well-informed data-driven decisions.

In addition, this MS program has four additional certificate options: health data analytics; health information cybersecurity; leadership in health informatics; and revenue cycle management.

This 36-credit curriculum includes courses such as introduction to python for health informatics; health vocabulary, terminology, and classification systems; health information and the healthcare system; foundations of health informatics; talent management and human resources; data science in health informatics; data analytics and machine learning in health science; and digital health.

At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities such as health informatics business analysts, clinical informatics coordinators, health data scientists, clinical informatics analysts, health informatics data analysts, health informatics consultants, and privacy officers, among many other roles.

  • Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM); Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 to 24 months

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University offers an online bachelor of science (BS) program in health information management that combines technology, business, and health science courses preparing students for a successful career in health information management. In addition to helping students develop practical experiences and skills, the program also meets eligibility requirements to sit for the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) credential exam.

Consisting of 120 credits, the program includes courses such as medical terminology; healthcare delivery systems; healthcare reimbursement; management of health information services; healthcare quality management; healthcare data management; and coding and classification systems. Students in this program will participate in a professional practice experience (PPE) internship at an organization that collects and manages patient health data.

  • Location: Manchester, NH
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM); New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 months

George Mason University

George Mason University’s online master of science in health informatics program offers two concentration options: health data analytics and health informatics management. The concentration in health data analytics prepares students to analyze real health data using machine learning, data science, statistics, and comparative analysis, while the HIM concentration prepares students to become administrators of health information systems with topics that include project management, system analysis and design, security, statistical analyses, and privacy.

Comprising 36 credits, the program includes courses such as computational tools in health informatics; introduction to health informatics; healthcare databases; statistics in health services management; healthcare security policy; data mining in healthcare; health data integration; and comparative effectiveness analysis using observational data.

Graduates of the health data analytics concentration will typically do data analytics for software vendors, healthcare providers, and the federal government. Graduates from the HIM concentration will typically be involved in leading IT projects in healthcare, providing consulting services, and helping end-users accomplish their goals.

George Mason University also offers an 18-credit online graduate certificate in health informatics and data analytics which can be completed in just 12 months. As part of this program, students will delve into topics such as healthcare databases; computational tools in health informatics; health data integration; data mining in healthcare; and statistical process control in healthcare.

  • Location: Fairfax, Virginia
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: MS (22 to 28 months); certificate (12 months)

Step 2: Gain Work Experience (Two Years or More)

Certified health data analysts must have at least two years of healthcare-related work experience. Prior experience with health information technology, medical economics, managed care finance, or medical office administration can provide candidates with the necessary data and software management skills to transition easily to a health data analysis position.

Step 3: Get certified by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)

To get certified as a health data analyst, students can take the certified health data analyst (CHDA) exam offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). The certification serves as a mark of competency in the field and helps candidates stand out among other applicants. It demonstrates professionalism and commitment, facilitates professional development, and helps students achieve expertise. The certification exam is a written one.

Students must meet at least one of the following requirements to be eligible to sit for the CHDA examination:

  • Healthcare information management credential (RHIT®) and a minimum of three years of experience with healthcare data
  • A bachelor’s degree and a minimum of three years of experience with healthcare data
  • Healthcare information management credential (RHIA®)
  • A master’s degree in health information management or health informatics from an accredited institution
  • A master’s or higher degree and one year of healthcare data experience

This 130 to 160-question CHDA examination takes approximately 3.5 hours and includes the following domains:

  • Foundational Knowledge of Analytics in Healthcare
  • Business needs assessment
  • Data acquisition and management
  • Data analytics
  • Data interpretation and reporting
  • Data governance

Please visit the following CHDA examination preparation resource to learn more:

Finally, for those interested in graduate-level education in this field, check out the following guides:

Farheen Gani
Farheen Gani

Farheen Gani has written many how-to career, online program, and scholarship guides related to master of healthcare administration degrees since 2018. Some guides she has written include online healthcare management programs, master's in regulatory science programs, and health administration scholarships. She writes about healthcare, technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).