What is a Clinical Data Analyst? Skills & Duties
A clinical data analyst (or clinical informatics analyst) is a healthcare information professional responsible for verifying the validity of scientific experiments and data gathered. These data analysts ensure that processes and protocols are followed, thereby improving the quality and efficiency of care.
Clinical data analysts are the human elements in clinical business intelligence. They ensure that the appropriate information is collected for clinical trials from databases. They develop and manage databases for healthcare organizations and commonly work in a clinical setting. A clinical data analyst’s primary responsibility is to ensure that data is accurate and reliable in various organizations. Many organizations also employ an entire clinical data management (CDM) team to ensure that the information collected is free of errors, relevant, and sound.
Clinical data analysts report the results of clinical business intelligence to management, stakeholders, and other interested parties. They also coordinate with other relevant departments (e.g., clinical strategy, clinical operations) to determine the areas to be analyzed and see that appropriate measures are taken to ensure data analysis is useful.
Other responsibilities include identifying necessary resources, developing plans for data-related projects, and determining timelines and milestones. They also perform data validation, data reconciliation, and the retrieval of missing data when required. Clinical data analysts might also conduct training for technical and software programs. All in all, a clinical data analyst is at the center of data management for an organization, right from planning and execution to completion of a clinical study phase.
Clinical Data Analyst Responsibilities
Clinical data analysts have a wide variety of responsibilities to fulfill. Responsibilities include validating results and conclusions from experiments and data from research for use in clinical business intelligence systems; overseeing external and internal data management activities; and expanding or modifying the system to serve new purposes and improve workflow. They are also responsible for training the staff to work with different computer systems and programs, developing programs to collect and record data accurately, and design and test data collection systems.
Several organizations also need these professionals to analyze future and current end-user requirements to improve clinical operations; design clinical and administrative reports; develop and analyze systems for obtaining statistics from research projects; and create mechanisms for approving and distributing information.
This role is also involved in reviewing, extracting, compiling, and analyzing patient data such as coded financial and medical records. Clinical data analysts may also provide on-the-job training, undertake quality improvement initiatives, and give departmental orientations.
Clinical Data Analyst Skills & Personality Traits
The primary skills required for this role include the ability to compile, code, and categorize data. They should be proficient in Microsoft Office software such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access. They may be skilled in other clinical data management software. Knowing how to analyze data must keep all medical, financial, and legal information confidential.
Additionally, these professionals have strong interpersonal and communication skills. They tackle complex situations involving physicians, patients, and other personnel. They are also adept at juggling multiple priorities and exploring innovative solutions to problems. Creative thinking, an eye for detail, working independently, and a positive attitude are also essential prerequisites for this job.
Clinical Data Analyst Education & Experience
Clinical data analysts should have at least two years of medical experience, preferably working with data. Education requirements include a bachelor’s degree in healthcare information management, statistics, computer science, or another relevant field.
However, a master’s degree may lead to better prospects for applicants with less experience. Applicants also benefit from voluntary certification from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), which demonstrates commitment, knowledge, and skills.
How to Become a Clinical Data Analyst
There are several steps towards becoming a successful clinical data analyst. The below outlines a common educational and career path.
Earn a bachelor’s degree (four years)
A bachelor’s degree program in health information management focuses on both healthcare as well as information technology. Courses include record management, computer technology, health information systems, and medicine. Some employers may also accept a bachelor’s degree in health management and computer science.
Gain work experience (two years or more)
After completing a bachelor’s degree, candidates must obtain a minimum of three years of statistical data analysis experience. They can work in hospitals, clinics, pharmaceutical companies, or clinical research facilities. This experience helps candidates develop project management skills. They also learn how to use information technology for creating statistical models.
Earn certification through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)
There are several voluntary certifications available through AHIMA. For example, the Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA) credentialing exam is open to candidates who meet one of the following conditions:
- Hold AHIMA’s RHIT certification and three years of relevant experience
- Have a bachelor’s degree and three years of relevant experience
- Have a master’s in health information management (or health informatics) from an accredited school
- Have a master’s (or higher) degree and one year of healthcare data work experience
Complete a master’s degree (optional, two years)
While a master’s degree is not a mandatory requirement, many employers prefer candidates to have an advanced degree in healthcare informatics or a related field, especially those seeking management roles. Possible areas of study include clinical research administration, health informatics, healthcare innovation, bioinformatics, and biotechnology.
Clinical Data Analyst Work Settings & Salary
Jobs in clinical data analysis are expected to become more common as digital medical records increase. In general, the organizations that employ the skills and competencies of clinical data analysts are colleges and universities, hospitals and clinics, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, clinical research facilities, government departments, and other healthcare facilities.
Clinical data analysts also provide accurate information to the management within health analytics or insurance companies. They can also work for healthcare associations, medical facilities, and physicians.
The salaries of clinical data analysts can vary depending on multiple factors, such as their level of experience, education, their role within an organization, work location, and many other factors. Clinical data analysts with more experience typically have better pay.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have occupational data for clinical data analysts. Still, it shows that operations research analysts in a similar position make median salaries of $84,810 per year (BLS May 2019). As for work settings, according to the BLS (2020), finance and insurance companies are the top employers (28 percent) of operations research analysts, with professional, scientific, and technical services close behind (23 percent).
BLS data contrasts somewhat with PayScale (2021), a self-reported aggregator of salaries. PayScale shows an entry-level analyst with less than five years of experience is expected to earn an average of $69,853. One with mid-career experience (five to ten years) is expected to make an average of $58,000 per year.
Similarly, a clinical data analyst with ten to 20 years of experience is expected to earn an average of $75,000 per year. Predictably, clinical data analysts aiming for higher earnings can become clinical data managers, who report higher median salaries of $77,213 annually.
The cost of living in a particular area is an essential factor that could account for these vast gaps in salary data. The Missouri Economic and Information Center (MERIC 2021) provides a cost of living index for the United States, which helps job seekers calculate average annual salary data and compare the overall cost of living. To this point, the BLS (2019) shows that four of the top-paying states for operations research analysts (New Jersey, Washington D.C., New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island) were also in the MERIC index of the top 10 most expensive places to live in the USA.
Other factors contributing to salary differences include years of experience, level of education, and professional certification.