More—and more complex—healthcare data is available today than ever before. With this comes the opportunity to better understand healthcare drivers, reduce errors and waste and manage costs. Likewise, business expectations understandably have increased across the board in today’s healthcare environment. Because the field of healthcare analytics is developing quickly, its definition may vary depending on who you ask. Jason Gomberg, FSA and Consulting Actuary with Milliman Inc. in Brookfield, WI, weighed in on the healthcare fields marriage of actuarial science and research. “Actuaries interpret information. With healthcare analytics, instead of traditional financial work—examining reserves, for instance—the work involves interpreting published research and clinical outcomes.
By combining both business and statistics training, actuaries have the skills needed to connect the dots in order to determine what makes sense.” Thomas Boldt, ASA and Chief Actuary for Accolade in Plymouth Meeting, PA, offered insight into the profession as well. “Healthcare analysts look at what is happening, what it means to the industry and what is going to happen in the future, evolving toward more win-win solutions for controlling healthcare costs.” Many of today’s healthcare analytics professionals examine claims and interpret them to draw current and project forward-thinking business conclusions. As more medical records go electronic, some healthcare analytics professionals are beginning to look beyond claims data—into social, spiritual and financial issues, for example. “Healthcare analytics isn’t just math,” Gomberg said.
It has been estimated that 30% to 40% of healthcare dollars spent today go to waste. Having the insured pay more is not an effective solution, according to Boldt. Instead, placing increased focus on streamlining processes and positioning patients for better outcomes through healthcare analytics will benefit all stakeholders.
Ultimately, investigating research studies, claims, consumer data, consumer interactions and the like to discover and address bumps in the healthcare road is good for everyone: patients, providers, pharmaceutical companies, academia and the public health in general. Credentials That Work, a Jobs for the Future initiative that helps align education and training needs with the economy, published a June 2012 report that shows significant growth in healthcare informatics in general. “A Growing Jobs Sector: Health Informatics,” found the following online job posting increases in 2011 versus 2007:
• All jobs: Up 6% in 2011
• Healthcare jobs: Up 9% in 2011
• Healthcare informatics jobs: Up 36% in 2011
Individuals with an actuarial background may find themselves viable candidates for roles within the latter, most rapidly growing segment. Actuaries are trained in business and statistics and they are no strangers to large data sets, Gomberg noted. And certainly, Boldt added, a demonstrated wherewithal to dig into that data and decipher important underlying trends is required. Healthcare analytics career opportunities generally call not only for database experience (e.g., Excel and Access), but also statistical modeling and analysis expertise (e.g., SAS and R).
Strong candidates may come from a variety of educational backgrounds including Statistics and Computer Science. Demand for healthcare analytics—and the skilled professionals behind it—shows no signs of slowing. To learn more about healthcare analytics job opportunities, please visit http://www.actuaryjobs.com/healthjobs.html or contact your DW Simpson recruiter.