Tuesday, May 31, 2016

HIM Professionals Critical Skills: Data Retrieval, Analysis and Reporting

Currently in health care organizations electronic health records (EHRs) allow providers to collect, retrieve and report different types of health data.  Making sure that the data is accurate and complete is the responsibility of the health information management professional.  Data analysis is one of the core competencies of the HIM professional.  Understanding what the data is telling you is key to the HIM role.  HIM professionals must possess knowledge in three primary areas:

  • Health data capture and maintenance
  • Health Information analysis and output
  • Health information resource management and innovation

As providers continue to demand health information technology systems that can manipulate data in novel ways, HIM professionals must be ready and able to tap into that data and tell the stories behind it.  (Improving Data Collection across Health Care Systems, October 2014)

Data retrieval

Data retrieval is an increasingly complex task as EHRs and other new applications continue to churn out huge volumes of data across disparate sites of care.  HIM professionals must identify and track all data sources that feed into the enterprise-wide data warehouse.  An incomplete data inventory leads to incomplete analysis.  HIM professionals must also be able to migrate and integrate data from diverse internal and external sources. 

Disaster recovery is also an important component of data retrieval.  HIM professionals play a significant role in the development of a formal disaster plan.  HIM professionals must ensure that this plan included information about data backup, disaster recovery, emergency mode operations, testing and revision and applications and data critical analysis.  Testing of a disaster recovery plan should be done periodically. (AHIMA, 2011)

Data integrity

Data integrity is the foundation of HIM.  Without clean data, any analysis, reimbursement, and clinical decisions can’t possibly be accurate or informed.  HIM professionals must ensure that errors within the HER are corrected and that all source systems include corrections as well.  They must also closely monitor the Master Patient Index (MPI), looking for and correcting duplicates and other patient identity errors.  As technology (e.g. computerized physician order entry, EHRs and computer-assisted coding) is implemented, HIM must be able to ensure that this technology provides an accurate output of data and that users understand their role in terms of validation.

HIM professionals—can—and should also engage patients to improve data integrity.  Portals, when integrated with the HER, give patient access to their own health data.  Patients can partner with their health providers to validate their own health information.  (AHIMA, 2011)

Data analysis and reporting

Data analysis and reporting will only continue to increase as technology allows providers to capture new and critical information.  HIM professionals can help identify opportunities for the use of this data to improve business intelligence, clinical care and decision-making throughout the enterprise. (Data Analytics for Health Care)

HIM professionals must be prepared to design requirements, criteria, and metrics to meet requirements for analyses and interpretations.  These needs will vary by researcher, clinician, executive, payer, consumer, etc. 

When analyzing and reporting data, HIM professionals must also ask these questions:

  • From what source(s) was the data obtained?
  • Is the data accurate?
  • Is the data complete?
  • Does the data meet the end user’s need?


Identifying a list of critical skills for the HIM professional to possess is important for several reasons, the most important being that one of the goals of health information management is to determine whether patients are receiving quality care. This means measuring how well health professionals follow practice guidelines and procedures.  If an EHR is set up properly, reports generated from the information stored in it can illuminate which guidelines and professional practices lead to better outcomes.  If the EHR is not set-up properly, this type of reporting is not possible. Moreover, an improperly set-up EHR could lead to the generation of inaccurate results, redundancy of data, wasted time and effort, and perpetuation of medical errors.  Acquisition of this skill set (data retrieval, analysis and reporting) will distinguish HIM professionals from their counterparts in the health care profession and contribute to the goal of quality care.  (Hanks, 2015)   

Frank M. Valier, D.B.A.                                                                                                                                               
Assistant Director, Health Information Management                                                            



AHIMA. "HIM Functions in Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety. Appendix C: HIM’s Role in Data Capture, Validation, and Maintenance." Journal of AHIMA 82, no.8 (Aug 2011):

Ikanow: Data Analytics for Healthcare: Creating Understanding from Big Data.http://​info.​ikanow.​com/​Portals/​163225/​docs/​data-analytics-for-healthcare.​pdf,   

Improving Data Collection across the Health Care System.  October 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.  http://www.ahrq.gov/research/findings/final-reports/iomracerport/reldata5.html

Hanks, G. “Importance of Data Retrieval and Analysis in Health Care.” Journal of AHIMA 86, no.2 (Feb 2015

Raghupathi W, Raghupathi V: An Overview of Health Analytics. 2013, working paper