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DCE Magazine

Architecting a Stronger Healthcare System

Preparing students at the forefront of a revolution in medicine and healthcare delivery.

Fall 2021

Sometimes it takes a massive disruption to accelerate historic advancements. Take the COVID-19 vaccines, a small miracle of science. Researchers had been working on messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines for years, but the life-and-death urgency to tackle the pandemic ramped up efforts dramatically — and healthcare analytics was a key factor in the rapid development of the shots.

“Unlike swine flu, for instance, the COVID-19 vaccines were developed in an exceptionally short period of time,” said Shaju Puthussery, Chief Operating Officer for Overjet, an artificial intelligence (AI) company and instructor for the Healthcare Analytics specialized studies program. “These synthetic mRNA vaccines once injected direct protein production in cells throughout the body to fight the virus. This is transformed into an on-demand drug factory within the body. It normally would have taken three to five years, but these were developed in a matter of months, and it was due to advances in biotechnology, using analytics, machine learning (ML) and drug discovery and the urgency to accelerate the process.”

Because the coronavirus genome was mapped and shared widely early on, scientists had a head start developing mRNA shots that prompt the body to produce antigens needed to defeat this deadly virus. It’s a landmark accomplishment and an example of how data analytics is being used with AI, ML and cloud computing to revolutionize the science and delivery of healthcare.

“Healthcare analytics is a convergence of all these technologies that are amplifying the power of the process,” Puthussery said. “You have this massive amount of data available that can be accessed anywhere through the cloud. The data can then be fed and processed through AI and ML to develop treatments and deliver accurate diagnoses faster and more accurately than physicians in many cases.”

It’s powering remote services such as Teladoc® that can deliver quality healthcare to even the most remote regions in the world, with doctor consultations and exams conducted from connected devices. “Accurate screenings for skin cancer, for example, can be made by uploading a photo of a mole or rash and having it analyzed through AI and ML,” Puthussery said.

It’s simply a matter of oncologists and machine learning scientists teaching these machines what cancer looks like and what it doesn’t look like, he added. “Case studies have shown that once this data is processed, the technology can often produce a more accurate diagnosis than humans.”

The same type of technology has been used to perform screenings for prostate cancer, diabetes, and diabetic retinopathy. Portable devices can track and record detailed data on cardiac performance, blood pressure and more — even track effectiveness of brushing and its impact on oral care for customized dental care.

“Healthcare analytics is evolving quickly, and within the next five years we’ll see it cause massive disruptions in the healthcare industry.” Shaju Puthussery, Instructor
Healthcare Analytics Specialized Studies Program

Decoding DNA

Perhaps the most exciting and revolutionary area of healthcare analytics, gene editing has the potential to detect specific defective genes and alter them before they can mutate into cancer or other diseases.

“It’s still in the early stages, but this science has the potential to eradicate disease even before a child is born,” said Puthussery. “Already it has shown promise in curing sickle cell disease and diagnosing a potentially devastating cause of childhood blindness.”

Advanced analytics clearly has potential to streamline our healthcare system, increasing quality and efficiency, while improving patient experience and lowering costs. It’s one of the most promising growth fields today, opening a wide new world of possibilities.

“Healthcare analytics is evolving quickly, and within the next five years we’ll see it cause massive disruptions in the healthcare industry,” Puthussery said.

The healing business

The Healthcare Analytics specialized studies program is designed for a range of healthcare and IT professionals looking to master the research and analytic skills needed to gather, organize and interpret data with unprecedented power and precision. Analytics provides the skillsets for optimizing business operations, an increasingly important consideration in our complex system, especially as the U.S. population ages.

Students gain a strong background in health informatics and advanced analytics, along with the latest science on precision medicine and disease prevention based on genetics. Courses also address security and privacy issues, along with population health management and data governance. The four-course program can be completed fully online in 6-12 months.

A wealth of career opportunities are available to qualified candidates — more than 400,000 job openings were posted in the most recent round of available data, and nearly 20% growth is projected through 2029. Median annual salary is in the $100,000 range. (Source: Economic Modeling Specialists Intl.)

Driving innovations

The program is popular with a diverse group of professionals, Puthussery said, as reflected in his own class, Healthcare Data Acquisition and Management. “My students come from many different backgrounds: physicians, healthcare professionals, IT, biotech. Some of them are interested in digital security and the policy side, as well. It’s nice to have so much diversity.”

Healthcare analytics encompasses so many different aspects and moving parts, all of them converging to create a dynamic system that goes beyond the sum of its parts. To visualize how it all works, look no further than a typical Tesla, Puthussery said.

“Teslas use so many different technologies working together in unison. You have cameras and sensors, cloud computing and GPS satellite-tracking all working together to help guide the automation of the car’s direction and performance. That’s how healthcare analytics works, bringing so many different machines and algorithms together in a unified system.”

Although progress so far has been stunning, it’s safe to say that healthcare analytics still has a long way to go in its evolution, especially with gene editing science. And let’s hope that it won’t take another deadly global emergency to speed up the process.

Learn more about the Healthcare Analytics Specialized Studies Program.