Health care hiring experts reveal keys to success: What you need in an analytics and data careerOctober 27, 2016 by Matt Krumrie
Analytics, big data, data mining, and data science. Those are not just buzz words, but job titles for some of the hottest jobs of the future. And actually, the present. Especially in health care careers, where professionals throughout the world are using a variety of analytics and data to help cure diseases and solve business problems.
The Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. used data mining to model patient populations and define chronic disease groups, which ended up improving their ability to help diabetic patients manage and reduce complications of their disease. Health care providers are using predictive analytics to find factors associated with high-cost patients. They can detect insurance fraud and even forecast medical outcomes. Analytics and data continually make more impact in health care. And so do the job opportunities. But for recent college grads, understanding the job titles and career paths of analytics and big data careers can be confusing.
“The good news is that opportunity is abundant,” says Kevin Purcell, Ph.D., a Professor in the analytics program at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Harrisburg, PA. “As with any new field, sometimes deciphering job titles is the first hurdle.”
Purcell breaks down these potential job titles and what the job entails:
- Data analysts: Responsible for gleaning information from data using various software packages and their knowledge of SQL on databases. This is often combined with intermediate level statistics.
- Data scientists: Responsible for gleaning information from data, but at a larger scale and also often tasked with more open questions. The skill also demands more advanced statistical knowledge such as machine learning as well as programming skills to better manipulate data to his or her own will.
- Data engineers: Typically software engineers that focus on building robust data pipelines that clean, transform and aggregate messy and unorganized data into usable data sources.
- Big data architects: Develop plans for integrating, structuring, and maintaining a company’s data sources often employing big data technology such as Hadoop
Chris Lee is the Manager of Performance Measurement at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) in Orange, California. He sees two key skills that are crucial to success working in analytics and data in the health care industry. Those skills are analytical and technical skills – combined with interpersonal skills. Sure, it’s important to have advanced Excel skills, knowledge of databases, strong data mining and presentation skills. However, the most technical people need interpersonal skills to work with others, including non-technical co-workers.
“The main thing I’ve learned in the field that students can’t learn in the classroom is the interpersonal aspect of working with people who request data,” says Lee. “The people you will work with in the real world have all sorts of personalities and traits. Great interpersonal skills will help one foster relationships and make the data analysis portion of the job much easier when you can clearly define and understand the data elements that the requester is asking for. Most successful analysts have that right balance that enables him or her to interact with the data requester to generate/create the correct data analysis.”
Purcell agrees: “It is imperative for both data analysts and data scientists to be competent communicators,” he says. “Data storytelling is an indispensable skill needed to communicate technical findings to non-technical audiences with a focus how the findings can impact the business or organization.”
Purcell says employers look for other core skills such as intellectual curiosity, analytical thinking, and knowledge of software tools such as R, Python, a high-level programming language (Java or C++), and GUI-based visualization.
Kevin Huggins, Ph.D., also a Professor in the analytics program at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, says getting hands-on, real-life experience is crucial to launching one’s entry-level analytics and data career.
“Nothing can replace practical experience,” says Huggins. “Internships are excellent options, but sometimes not available to everyone. Since most platforms are open, contributing to open competitions or open-source collaborations can provide experience where professional opportunities are scarce.”
Carolyn Thompson, Managing Principal, Merito Group, LLC, a talent acquisition and consulting firm, says the single most requested skill set in healthcare analytics that employers seek is revenue cycle experience. “Because of the complex nature of payment and provider relationships, this is an area where the demand is literally never fully met,” says Thompson. “These people have strong Excel skills, good business judgment and can do modeling and forecasting around all the various aspects of healthcare revenue.”
Andrew S. Miller, President & CEO of BrainWorks, a leader in big data recruitment, says employers want recent college graduates who are trained in statistics, math, quantitative analysis, using programs, and algorithms. But ultimately, recent college grads also have to be able to communicate and present the data.
“The ability to take your finding and present to key business stakeholders is critical,” says Miller. “Employers want a person who can not only massage and manipulate data, but interpret the data into insights and meaningful conclusions. If they can’t convey the information in a way that makes sense or sells management or what action to take, their value to the employer becomes limited.”
Analytics and big data jobs are hot and in demand. Especially in the health care industry. Use these tips to advance your career and land that first job or internship.
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