April 13, 2024

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New Wharton Healthcare Analytics Lab is bridging the fields of healthcare and data science

3 min read

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The Academic Research Building is home to Analytics at Wharton. 

Credit: Derek Wong

Analytics at Wharton announced the launch of the Wharton Healthcare Analytics Lab (WHAL) on Oct. 23.

WHAL aims to utilize healthcare analytics to improve the accessibility and quality of healthcare. The lab was launched to transform healthcare through a data-driven, analytical approach. 

Hamsa Bastani, Associate Professor of Operations, Information, and Decisions and Marrisa King, the Alice Y. Hung President’s Distinguished Professor of Health Care will lead the lab along with Laura Zarrow, Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives and Innovation with Analytics at Wharton. 

“Right now is a critical moment in healthcare: we’ve seen a growing availability of data, as well as transformative opportunities with respect to the development of algorithmic tools,” King said. “By carrying these together, we think that we can begin to tackle many of healthcare’s growing challenges.”

Bastani added that while there already have been efforts to integrate AI into healthcare, there hasn’t been much translation work thus far. 

“Healthcare costs are also increasing to a point that is no longer sustainable; it sort of made sense to have a concerted effort towards bridging the gap.”

WHAL’s primary objective is to use algorithmic tools to solve pressing healthcare challenges. 

“Our approach is to try to find the best tool that’s best suited to solve each problem,” King said. “Even simple descriptive statistics are a starting point to thinking about more advanced, adaptive machine learning algorithms. And then increasingly, we’re focused on thinking about how we can utilize large language models to solve challenges, particularly in the healthcare workforce.”

In order to improve the quality of healthcare, WHAL is focused on five major areas of focus: resource allocation, workforce wellbeing, innovative trials, treatment and care, and health equity. 

Resource allocation is a critical focus area that involves the strategic and data-driven distribution of limited resources by optimizing the allocation of medical supplies, personnel, and funding. 

Workforce wellbeing addresses issues of reducing burnout, using analytics to create a healthier and more sustainable work environment for the healthcare workforce. 

WHAL will work with the Penn Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics, using machine learning to adopt adaptive and personalized trial designs, which improve patient health, quality, and access to care, Bastani said. 

Treatment and care initiatives will use algorithms to analyze health systems data, determining optimal treatment strategies and the construction of social interventions.

WHAL focuses on health equity through algorithm debiasing and improved human-AI collaboration, ensuring that all groups of people receive equitable access to unbiased healthcare. 

In addition to the numerous projects that WHAL are pursuing to improve healthcare, there are also many opportunities for student engagement. 

“Our goal is to become a centralized place for anyone who’s interested in healthcare analytics to come together,” King said.

WHAL is also offering a Healthcare Data and Analytics Course for Penn students: HCMG 3570 for undergraduates and HCMB 8570 for MBA students, both taught by King. 

“In both of those courses, we try to bring students from a wide variety of backgrounds together to not only think about how we can apply cutting edge analytics to solve healthcare’s biggest challenges, but also some of the unique challenges that are present for data and analytics,” King said. 


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