Insight Health Data Science: a growing presence in the Boston healthtech community

Feb 23, 2017

Guest blog post by Greg Antell, Program Director, Insight Health Data Science

In October 2016, the digital health startup Cardiogram raised more than $2 million to detect cardiac arrhythmias using wearable devices such as the Apple Watch. At the core of this potentially life-saving product sits a machine learning algorithm. Cardiogram, however, is not the only organization to apply sophisticated algorithmic approaches to issues traditionally tasked to expert researchers and clinicians. The biotech, pharmaceutical and health insurance industries are rapidly adopting machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies and methodologies to better manage workflows, improve decision making and automate sophisticated tasks, including diagnosis.

Earlier this year, Yancheng Liu, a Ph.D. researcher with a background in microbial pathogenesis and infectious disease, turned his attention towards a nearly identical question as part of the inaugural Insight Health Data Program in Boston: is it possible to predict atrial fibrillation using Apple Watch heart rate data? Through a collaboration with the UCSF Health eHeart Study, Yancheng developed a supervised classification model which can detect atrial fibrillation with 89% precision. Researchers like Yancheng, now a Senior Data Engineer at AthenaHealth in Boston, have the opportunity to work on similarly high-impact projects with industry partners while attending the Insight Health Data program.

The Insight Health Data Program is a full-time, tuition-free Fellowship that enables top Ph.D.s and postdocs to make the transition from academic researcher to data scientist in the healthcare industry. Launched in the summer of 2015 following the establishment of successful Data Science programs in Silicon Valley and New York, the Boston program was specifically designed to focus on the prominent and evolving healthcare and biotech industry in Boston and Cambridge. A little over a year after establishing the program in Boston, Insight alumni have accepted offers as data scientists at companies throughout the Boston healthcare sector, including Biogen, Foundation Medicine, Optum Labs, Merck, Seven Bridges, GNS Healthcare, the Broad Institute, Good Start Genetics, and high-growth startups like Constant Therapy. Due to the success of the Boston program and a growing national need, the Insight Health Data Program expanded to San Francisco in September 2016.

While Insight Fellows come from a variety of academic backgrounds, they are united by research and work experience that has developed the rare synthesis of skills in programming, mathematics, and machine learning that is fundamental to success in data science. Accordingly, rather than class-based pedagogical learning, Insight Fellowships are entirely project-based, with mentoring provided by industry leaders, alumni of the program, and the Insight staff. Fellowships are focused on real world problems in genomics, hospital operations, electronic health records, claims analytics, and other health applications.

The unique combination of world-class hospitals and universities, immense biotech and pharmaceutical industry presence, and a growing venture capitalist community makes the city of Boston a world leader in the emergent field of healthcare data science and artificial intelligence.

To learn more about how to partner with Insight Health Data or become a Fellow, reach out at Fellow applications are now being accepted! Application deadline is March 20, 2017, for the upcoming May 30, 2017, Fellowship. You can also learn more at our Open House on February 28, 2017.

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