The “Accidental Data Analysts”

The “Accidental Data Analysts”

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

By Kimberly Bemiss, RHIA, CHDA; Angela Maes, RHIA, CHDA, CPHI; and Sandra Pearson, RHIA, CHDA, MHA, CPEHR


At SCL Health, based in Denver, CO, we often refer to our health information management (HIM) data analytics team as the “accidental data analysts.” HIM was facing multiple problems in several areas: ”meaningful use” Electronic Health Record Incentive Program attestation, transition of care objectives, clinical documentation integrity metric reporting, and coding account receivable information. We needed to learn how to access data and make it meaningful so we could quickly share data with business owners and executives and solve our business problems.

The ability to glean meaningful analytics from multiple databases within the organization was challenging. With the implementation of the EHR systems across inpatient and outpatient facilities, the amount of data stored electronically in disparate systems grew exponentially. We began trying different data visualization software combined with data-blending tools to overcome the challenges of multiple data sources.

We were able to gain some quick wins by applying these tools. We published our first executive dashboard, the Coding Accounts Receivable Dashboard. We were using Microsoft Excel to communicate weekly accounts receivable status in a format that was not intuitive to our executives. It was a very labor-intensive process and was subject to errors and inconsistency. The dashboard was tailored for executives and managers to see precisely where AR was holding and allowed drill-down to see the “what,” the “who,” and the cause. We held webinars with the executives to teach them the different views and drill down capabilities. It was well received and soon we were asked to build and deliver more.

The next item on our executive list was the clinical documentation improvement (CDI) dashboard. This also allowed management to drill down into the specifics of some of the metrics they’d not been able to previously. For example, not only could they identify the top queries, but they could see which associates were leaving them and for which physicians. This allowed that team to identify any educational opportunities for both providers and the CDI team. Executive leaders and the chief medical officers could also identify provider trends and outliers.

Creation of dashboards is saving our organization thousands of labor hours. These savings are an example of what we report to executive leadership. We want to show the value added and the savings for our organization.

  • Coding dashboard: from 520 hrs/qtr to <1 hr
  • Patient merge dashboard: from 130 hrs/qtr to <1 hr
  • CDI dashboard: savings of 15 hours/month
  • Referrals dashboard: from 900 hrs/qtr to < 1 hr

These big wins opened the door for HIM to become leaders in our organization and set the standard for data analytics. Our organization had siloed data and multiple disparate reporting teams using old tools. In response, we updated our HIM associate skillsets. Barbara Manor, MA, RHIA, CHDA, vice president of health information management at SCL Health, had the vision to develop such a team. We sponsored a workshop and we held regular study groups to prep for the AHIMA CHDA credential exam. We now have 17 CHDA-credentialed HIM professionals in our department. We formed a dedicated team for data analytics with a dedicated manager, three business intelligence specialists, and two senior-level application analysts. We are in the process of creating a career ladder by adding a data architect position, which will specialize in building data sets for our HIM-related dashboards. The team has published over 20 executive dashboards in 2017 and continues to move data from spreadsheets and static reports to innovative data visualization dashboards.

We are continually learning more about data visualization and analytics. HIM has become the leader in data analytics because of our desire to solve a problem. Data analytics started by just trying different methods and tools to solve that problem. Being curious and willing to learn and try new things has led to a structured, highly regarded, and successful department providing a new career path for those in HIM that have a passion for data.


Kimberly Bemiss is manager of HIM data analytics, Angela Maes is HIM systems and analytics director, and Sandra Pearson is CDI and data governance director at SCL Health.

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  1. This is a real WIN for the CHDA credential – applying.the certification to real life work place. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Love this. This is the direction in which I’d like to take my career and have been considering pursuing the CHDA credential. This is exciting.

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