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Digital HealthInterviewUC San Diego Extension Offers A New Specialized Digital Health Certificate Program

With the challenges imposed by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, more and more patients grew wary of in-person visits and now see digital health as more of a necessity than merely a perk, forcing thereby providers to fast-track their knowledge and implementation of data science, telemedicine, mHealth and other technologies. UC San Diego Extension is doing their part by offering a specialized certificate program in Digital Health.

To learn more about the topic, we conducted an interview with Hobson Lane.

1. Do healthcare providers need to adopt Data Science? Can you elaborate on that?

Yes! They already are, at an exponential rate. Those that do not will quickly be left behind. Most healthcare services, such as diagnosis, prescription, and even mental health support are being digitized and automated using Data Science. Radiologists are being supplemented by computer vision systems. Therapists are being supplemented by companion chatbots and personal assistants (Xaoice, Replika, Jarvis). Family practitioners are being supplemented by sites like WebMD and Livestrong. Even pharmacists are being supplemented by pharma covigilance algorithms monitoring social media feeds for drug interaction symptoms.

2. How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect addition of Data Science for Digital Health?

COVID-19 was a wakeup call for the Healthcare industry. Other sectors, such as transportation and shipping (Lyft, Uber, Postmates, Amazon) used Data to transform their industries and readily expand their efficiency while innovating and growing the kind of services they can deliver. Until COVID-19, Healthcare lagged behind. But healthcare industry leaders in digital health, such as vaccine manufacturers and HMOs with broad addition of digital health records were able to deliver services to patients throughout lockdown. For example weekly self-administered at-home covid tests were available to those on Google’s healthcare plan. And Kaiser Permanente sent at-home cancer test kits to plan members. This freed up healthcare  facilities to deal with the surge of COVID patients while protecting those organizations members from exposure.

3. There is lack of education about Data Science at many healthcare organizations. What does this mean for adoption?

It means that those organizations unfamiliar with Data Science tools and expertise embarked on expensive initiatives that achieved little tangible improvement in efficiency or quality. Those with a foundation of Data Science are able to provide their organizations with the leadership they so desperately need to navigate the wide range of possible applications for Data Science in healthcare.

4. Can you tell us more about the Data Science for Digital Health course offered by UC San Diego Extension?

Data Science for Digital Health is a ten week course within the Digital Health certificate program. It gives students the foundational technical skills they need to separate hype from reality and help their healthcare organizations shift to a data- approach to decision-making. Healthcare industry employers increasingly desire employees that can bring together healthcare domain knowledge with digital technologies and data science thinking to help them make better decisions.

5. Who teaches the courses incorporated in your program?

Introduction to Digital Health: Tim Ken Mackey is the Director of GHPi, an Associate Professor at UC San Diego and Director of Healthcare Research and Policy at UC San Diego – Extension.

Data Science for Digital Health: Hobson Lane is a Data Scientist with 20 years of experience building autonomous systems that contribute to the common good. Hobson is the inventor on six patents, and earned his M.S. degree in Dynamics and Controls from Georgia Institute of Technology, and his B.S. in Physics and English from Vanderbilt University.

6. What makes your program different from other similar programs?

Our Data Science for Digital Health course emphasizes hands on practical learning from an industry professional that can teach you real world techniques not taught in any other course, approaches and tools often considered trade secrets by healthcare organizations. But after decades of data science consulting Hobson has been able to consolidate these insights into a coherent and practical curriculum that engages students in active learning exercises… driven by Data Science and Learning Engineering principles. As Silicon Valley entrepreneurs often say, “we eat our own dog food.”

7. Who can benefit from your program? What skills and knowledge will the program equip them with?

Students used to manipulating and exploring data in spreadsheets will take their skills to the next level. Students learn how to automate the boring stuff and get to the transformative insights hidden in healthcare data. Students will learn a modern, readable programming language for Data Science called Python. Students use online games, visualizations, and exercises (including a data science assistant chatbot) to develop their computational thinking and Data Science skills. At the end of the course students will be prepares to thrive in a rapidly evolving healthcare industry landscape, using Data Science tools to unlock hidden potential in their organization.

8. Are there any prerequisites to register in your program?

Familiarity with basic biology and algebra is a must. Some experience with visualizing or entering data in spreadsheets would also be helpful. Curiosity and and a determination to understand the “why” behind healthcare challenges is a must.

9. What career paths does the program help in navigating?

Nurses, insurance company employees, doctors, practicioners, researchers, lab technicians, hospital administrators, and even sales and marketing professionals within healthcare organizations can reskill and grow their career by adding Data Science to their resume.

10. Can the program be completed online? What is the duration of the program?

The entire program is online and lasts 10 weeks. Students retain access to all course materials, tools, and applications after the conclusion of the course.

11. How can someone apply for the program?

https://extension.ucsd.edu/courses-and-programs/data-science-for-digital-health

12. Where do you see the Data Science for Digital Health course in the next 5-years?

The concept of Beneficial AI as discussed by thought leaders such as Stuart Russel is revolutioning the way we ethically apply AI to the healthcare sector.

In addition, much more automation will be required to keep pace with the rapidly evolving industry, especially in the field of genomics and bionformatics.

The course will adapt to involve more “field work” (Internet research) and practical group projects mimicing real world scenarios. This adaptive approach will help students understand and capitalize on expanding opportunities in AI and Genomics as they become main stream.

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