Are You Feeling Lost in Big Data Space?

This monthly blog highlights and discuss emerging trends and challenges related to healthcare data and its ever changing life cycle.

By Barbara Ryznar, RPh, MSHI, CHDA, CPHIMS

The increase in available healthcare data and the path to taming it through analytics has been made possible with the widespread implementation of electronic health record (EHR) systems and the awesome advances in computer technology for query and analysis. Do you feel somewhat lost at meetings that swim with data and number manipulations that produced graphic representations resembling works of art? Perhaps you have been busy with other aspects of health information management (HIM) that do not lend attention toward analytics? Maybe math has never been a favorite subject of yours, appearing more like a forbidden forest of figures than a helpful tool. Whatever the reason, it’s never too late to find your footing in the Big Data space if you’re feeling a bit lost. The ever-changing environment of healthcare requires a lifelong learning strategy for HIM professionals. Realigning your goals and objectives to direct some self-study and continuing education efforts in the data analytics direction can make a big difference.

It isn’t necessary to be a math genius when it comes to learning about data analytics; a basic understanding of data and statistics will get you started, and the computer will be your partner in handling the math part. If you’re an AHIMA member, you have some excellent knowledge tools at your fingertips. Online access to the online AHIMA HIM Body of Knowledge is a great place to commence your journey. The Health Data Analysis Toolkit (with free access for AHIMA members) is a resource that provides a wealth of information and is a great starting point. You can access the kit here: This Toolkit is a comprehensive collection covering subjects related to data analytics that can both inform and be used for a self-assessment of skill gaps.

If the barrier in your path is statistics, there are many online self-study options available, including free Massive Open Online Courses. If you do not know Excel or are only mildly familiar with its basic functions, this is a skill to develop. There are books and online courses; better yet, find a colleague who uses Excel for analytics and ask for some mentoring. Once you have basic statistics and Excel in your toolbox, then find some data to play with using the data analytics features of Excel and make some graphs. The AHIMA Practice Brief “Understanding Publicly Available Healthcare Data (2016)” lists links to open sources of healthcare data that are available for download. For someone with an expanded understanding of and vocabulary for data analysis, enhanced comprehension of the charts presented in organization meetings and an appreciation for the data they represent is the reward.

Another avenue to keep in mind is the Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA) credential offered by AHIMA. According to AHIMA’s website, “CHDA-credentialed professionals exhibit broad organizational knowledge and the ability to communicate with individuals and groups at multiple levels, both internal and external.” For those who want to continue expanding their data analytics knowledge, pursuing this credential might be a helpful goal to set.

Remember—don’t feel lost in the Data Revolution; it’s never too late to join.


Barbara Ryznar works as a community pharmacist and is a course facilitator in the Masters of Science in Health Informatics program at the University of Cincinnati.

1 Comment

  1. Great article! Very informative and motivating especially for a new MSHI graduate. Thank you.

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