April 20, 2017

Women in Data Discuss Data Science, Design-Thinking, and Healthcare

Earlier this month, CDS hosted the Women in Data (WID) event, run by Norma A. Padron and Tran Ly. The two women have recently rebooted the non-profit organization, which was founded 5 years ago. Today, WID exists to educate and foster a community of women in data-driven fields like journalism, health care, finance, and technology.

In this session, both women discussed how to bridge data science techniques and design thinking to improve the healthcare industry. Padron, a current board member of Women in Data and Associate Director at the Main Line Health Center for Population Health Research at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, began by explaining the importance of implementing new interdisciplinary approaches like computational design (which uses data to inform how physical spaces are constructed) to improve healthcare.

For example, noise in hospitals caused by machinery, lights turning on and off, and nurses and doctors making their rounds, all disrupt the much needed sleep that patients need to recover from surgery or other illnesses. By gathering data and interacting with the physical hospital space, however, computational design could measure the times those noises spike and how it affects people’s sleep in order to address the problem.

Another way data science can help improve healthcare was also highlighted by Ly, a past board member of Women in Data and a data strategist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Demographic and medical information, she explained, are not only widely available but also expected to double every 73 days by 2020. With so much data pouring in, those in the healthcare industry need efficient digital tools to organize the data in a meaningful way (such as the fantastic City Health Dashboard that NYU Langone is developing!)

The growing emphasis on exploring the social determinants of health, such as unemployment, insurance, and median income also means that the healthcare industry is increasingly looking beyond the four walls of the hospital to track where, when, why, and how physical ailments and illnesses develop. As doctors prepare to combine medical data with social demographics and statistics, developing an effective interdisciplinary and data-driven approach to healthcare has never been more crucial.


by Nayla Al-Mamlouk