Putting together the right team of data specialists is an important part of the future growth of a healthcare organization. Healthcare data is growing at 48% per year since 2013, according to a report by EMC Digital Universe. By the year 2020, healthcare data will be about 2,314 exabytes (one exabyte equates to about 1 billion gigabytes).
Experts says analyzing all that data can’t be an additional responsibility of the IT department. “Healthcare organizations will need to recognize that the skills required for data analytics are not merely an extension of existing personnel but will require additional training or acquisition of staff,” says John Zaleski, chief analytics officer at Bernoulli, which develops medical device integration and clinical surveillance solutions for hospitals and health systems. “Data are becoming more and more the part of day-to-day clinical care. As such, the need for those individuals trained in the acquisition, cleaning, interpretation, and identification of value will be required.”
When establishing a data analytics team, here are some of the most important players with job descriptions and skills required (compiled based on information provided by the experts we interviewed and information we compiled from job posting websites and openings posted by various healthcare organizations):
Title: Chief analytics officer (CAO)
Job description: Senior manager who heads data analysis. Education background in applied science, physics, engineering or engineering mathematics, or applied mathematics and statistics. Must also have hands-on experience in domain of application and experience in participating and leading a clinical trial involving data reduction and analysis. Also, experience in tools associated with the domain for data reduction, programming, simulation modeling and the various languages, including of Python, R, Matlab, Excel and VBA. Managerial experience in the oversight of scientists, applied mathematicians, or researchers including medical doctors and researchers with PhDs.
Why this position matters: Unlike a chief information manager (CIO), the CAO’s sole responsibility is leading a team that’s goal is to make sense of all types of data that inhabits an organization, says Zaleski. This includes claims and financial data, clinical data, and patient-generated data from wearables and remote monitoring devices. He says the CAO should be able to dissect problems into their components and guide team members when solving data problems.
“The role is distinct from the CIO’s office as the focus is not on the selection and implementation of software and technology but, rather, on the assessment of clinical data and the impact of these data in terms of influencing the clinical work flow, patient safety, and quality of healthcare within the enterprise,” says Zaleski.
Having this independent analytics leader is paramount as data becomes a standard part of clinical care and complex business decisions for healthcare organizations, Zaleski says.
“As healthcare organizations begin relying more on data, the analytics will play a substantial role in clinical patient management, identification and support for best practices in guidelines, and supporting the end-user in making better decisions on patients,” he says.