Big Data and Health Care

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

At UnitedHealth Group we work with the largest collection of health related data. It's an opportunity and challenge on an enormous scale using SAS, R/Python, Hadoop, MapReduce and every emerging platform that makes sense for a team that makes the biggest difference in health care. Check out our interview with Ashish C., an Analytics Senior Director here to learn more.

 

1. What is your current role and how long have you been working with us?

A: I’m a Senior Director for Analytics and I’m responsible for Advanced Analytics.  When I say Advanced Analytics, it includes Statistical Modeling and Machine Learning. Here at Optum, we are leveraging Big Data, High Performance Analytics and Real-time Analytics capabilities to solve specific problems. I have been with Optum for three years helping the company build its analytics capabilities.

2. How are we using Data Analytics to make the health system work better for everyone?

A: That’s a great point. This is what specifically inspired me to work at Optum. Before I came onboard, I was interested in how to help people live healthier lives and to help make the health system work better for everyone. Everything we do today is driving towards something. If we are looking into driving operational efficiencies, then we are focused on reducing the cost of delivering health care. When we are focusing on clinical analytics, for example disease predictions, then we want to identify diseases early on so that we can help people live healthier lives. When we are focused on identifying health risk, we’re finding ways to drive more preventive programs to reduce the cost of health care and improve the quality of life.

3. How does the Analytics team at Optum work with companies to improve quality of care, health outcomes and help lower cost to enhance productivity?

A: At Optum, we are always supporting the entire health system, whether they are agencies, government organizations, health systems, pharmaceutical companies, we’re helping everyone with distinct methods. One of them is that we have a lot of solutions to understand health risk and provide a lot of services. Because of our strong analytics capabilities, we are able to help organizations reduce operation cost, improving the quality of care and at the same time managing the cost of care. Recently we launched one of our products called Optum IQ. At Optum, we have the health and information data for millions of people. While we don’t want anybody else to have access, there are underlying traits and analytics which can help others. Through Optum IQ, we are helping our clients to improve quality of care.

4. What are some examples of the resources available to the Analytics team at Optum?

A: When you say resources, I think about infrastructure resources and people resources. First and foremost, we have the infrastructure, such as state of the art data platforms. When it comes to people resources, we are one of the largest groups of Data Scientists in health care analytics. Our teams are equipped with all kinds of capabilities. Data Scientists focused on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, at the same time we have a strong Data Analytics community focused on mining the data and creating actionable insights. We also have a lot of people focused on Data Management. In addition to that, we have a strong pool of clinical practitioners such as Physicians, Dentists and Pharmacists.

5. What kind of Student Programs does Optum offer?

A: We have a campus program and we are taking fresh graduates with a Statistics background or a Computer Science background. We have training programs and mentorship programs to equip them and help them work with analytics. At the same time, we have all of our experienced resources. We have internal Mentorship Programs which continuously enhance performance and help students achieve the next level of responsibility.

6. What career paths are available for candidates interested in Analytics?

A: Candidates can start as a Data Analyst or Data Scientist and they can choose to take one of many career paths. They can take the Business Intelligence career path. People can take the Domain Expert career path, the Data Analytics or Data Scientist career path. In all career paths, there are levels: from Data Scientist, to Senior Data Scientist to Leader Data Scientist going up to a Principal Data Scientist. They can move and develop throughout their careers. At the same time, people can choose a career path of an Individual Expert or a People Manager.

7. What’s the most important thing people should know about Optum?

A: This question may have a lot of answers but for me, it’s our mission. You may have heard it being emphasized here. For me, our mission is much greater than our aspirations. In our career, we will always make money and grow. This is the place where you can impact people’s lives. Every time you identify a stage 1 cancer, you can imagine the type of impact you’ve made on that person’s life.  The one thing you should know about Optum is that end of the day, we are focused on helping people live healthier lives and helping make the health system work better for everyone.

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