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Interview: Gary Shorter, Quintiles on Future of Heathcare and Big Data Skills


We discuss how Big Data is shaping the future of Healthcare industry and advice for career in Analytics.



Here is part 1 of the interview: Gary on Big Data in Healthcare

Gary ShorterGary Shorter, 20 years experience in the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare industries, Global Statistician for four FDA drugs through approval and has spent the past 5 years consulting on Advanced Analytics across drug development and healthcare platforms.

Gary recently delivered a keynote speech at Big Data Innovation Summit 2014 held in Santa Clara on “Data Science Now, Next & Beyond”. He shared his views on data architecture and science status today, what's happening now and then more on what the future is likely to focus in with respect to more complexity in data science techniques to delve deeper into insight.

Here is second part of my interview with him:

AR: Q5. Through the increasing use of Big Data, how do you see the Healthcare industry evolve over the next few years?

Health-care dataGS: Medical devices that track an individuals vital signs are going to become more prevalent and you will start to see reports of these ‘saving lives’ through the identification of cardiac events. But that’s not going to be good enough. Labs on a chip that monitor individuals continuously will provide additional accuracy and insight. But that won’t be enough.

Bigger and better databases of patients meta-omics (genomics, proteomics etc) will also yield new and interesting insights. But that won’t be enough. Each of these in themselves are breakthroughs all of which are reliant on big data and all contribute to patients health. But they all remain in a silo’d environment individually providing interesting information unless engaged collectively through systems that connect all of them to a broad centralized database that can look at all the data together, identify specific patterns that can provide specific insights that support Doctors in their standard of care practices and bring that knowledge to doctors so that they don’t have to know it all but have it all available to them so that when a specific patient comes in they can engage the patient in a more specific healthcare plan for them that matches to other known patients with similar events.

Some individual hospitals and organizations are already progressing down that road, utilizing the big data that they have for their specific patient sets. Some articles believe that in 10 years that 80% of a Doctors work will be handled through the use of big data and analytics.
However accuracy and variability of data cause problems for specificity to engage patients beyond broad types of events such as cardiovascular disease and Diabetes. And so more collaboration and partnership opportunities will emerge as a way to share data, knowledge and develop more robust techniques that can be personalized to a specific patients needs and sold to the global marketplace. And that’s why it is an exciting time in Healthcare for data science.

AR: Q6. If you were a fresher starting in analytics industry today, how would you shape up your career?

AdviceGS: Learn from others. I started out in Biostatistics in the heaviest regulated industry possible using very complex statistics. So starting out the first thing is, get out there. Do something.

Then over time I evolved. With a strong background in understanding what is acceptable and what is crap that really helps with choosing what to attack and what to let others simply waste their time on. So starting out, make sure you are learning something new, not re-hashing the old stuff. The internet today really helps. Linkedin is a must. Online courses are a must. Learn, Learn, Learn.

As you set your baseline, where ever it is in whichever industry, understand that you always will be learning. Seek out new methods, reach out to individuals, always question what you are doing and always push for results. Never ever give up and attack, attack, attack.

And finally know where you want to go. My passion is Healthcare because my efforts have an impact to my families future. Use the tools out there such as simplyhired, search on key words that relate to what you want to do, e.g. Analytics, programming, data science etc. The results you find will show you who’s looking for you. The details will show you what you should be learning (Stats, C#, Java etc). There’s a lot of info online that can help you. Whilst getting a degree and beyond (Msc, Phd) is important temper that with learning from these online tools and doing it yourself. Apply that knowledge into every meeting, every conversation. Keep learning, keep attacking.

AR: Q7. What was the last book that you read and liked? What do you like to do when you are not working?

GS: I tend to use a library of nook books which is shared as a family, so most recently I did end up re-reading the Hunger games trilogy! Most of my time though for reading is spent on things like flipboard which really helps me accumulate the distinct specific interest areas I have. Forbes I have found has a lot of interesting articles, Reddit is fun at times. That sort of thing.

Otherwise I am a pretty healthy nut for movies, and also watch car shows with my son who is a nut for Top Gear. To get away from it all though I like to do the handy man things around the house, building / planting in the garden or re-styling my daughters room for the umpteenth time. I force my son away from Minecraft as much as I can and get him cycling, and I enjoy cooking as I find that a way to focus on something completely different whilst still ending up with a good result at the end!

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