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How Data Scientists Are Driving Innovation in Health Technology at Johnson & Johnson

ata science is the driver of astonishing health tech innovations today, from mHealth breakthroughs to how we understand and treat rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases. It's no surprise, then, that data analysis ranks as one of the most in-demand skills at our company. If you're as passionate as we are about changing the trajectory of health for humanity, check out some of the exciting work that healthcare data scientists are doing at Johnson & Johnson right now.

Welcome to the Operating Room of the Future

It's probably hard to imagine how surgery was practiced in the late 19th century, when seldom-washed clothes and only-sometimes-washed hands were the norm for any procedure. Thankfully, times have changed—and indeed, Johnson & Johnson played a large role in ushering in the era of safer, sterile surgery. But according to Johannes Hermann, how surgery is practiced will look radically different in the not-so-distant future, too. Johannes, Senior Director, Head Data Sciences, R&D Technology, Medical Devices Companies at Johnson & Johnson, sees big things ahead for the operating room.

"In the future, make no doubt about it, digitalization is going to change the way that surgery is practiced," Johannes said. He noted that patient-level data, sensors and real-time video analytics will enable much more patient-centric procedures and postoperative follow-up.

"The change will be from procedures that are mostly physician- or surgeon-driven—which is the way things are today—to being more data-driven and surgeon-informed," he said. "By way of analogy, think of it not as a sudden shift from human-driven to driverless cars, but more like the gradual transition from human drivers to a situation where GPS is assisting the human driver."

Ensuring Access to Medicines for the Right Patient Groups

We all share 99.9% of the exact same DNA—a tiny percentage point of difference is what makes every human genetically unique. Nonetheless, even seemingly small genetic variation can have serious implications when it comes to health and treatment. No two bodies respond to a given medicine or medical treatment in exactly the same way. That, as Johannes explained, is exactly the idea behind personalized medicine.

"By leveraging patient-level data, we can create the best, most effective medicines, procedures and therapies for each individual," he said.

And Johannes believes that this is just the tip of the iceberg. In the future, there will be many other areas where data, together with innovative analytics tools, will be able to improve patient outcomes and deliver value across the healthcare ecosystem.

Take knee replacement, for example. "In the future," Johannes said, "imagine if we could predict which patient characteristics, based on real-world evidence, promise the greatest success with a given procedure? Which patients are ready for a knee replacement procedure, and which patients should wait and prepare for it more? We can help physicians make these decisions in a much more informed, data-driven way—and thereby improve the patient’s experience."

What's the Path to a Career in Data Science?

The intellectual curiosity and boundless energy of our employees is the source of our strength and drives our innovation, so there's no single predefined path—no one specialty or area of interest—that translates to a career in healthcare data science with us.

For Johannes, the path started with a love of science. After completing his doctorate in quantum mechanics and theoretical chemistry, he went to work on early drug discovery—but, he said, something was missing.

"I fell in love with challenging data analytics problems in healthcare," he said. "And I just knew I wanted to apply cutting-edge technology to pressing business needs." Of course, data science is a relatively new field, so there's a lot to keep up with. But, Johannes said, Johnson & Johnson supports employees every step of the way.

For instance, the company encourages employees like Johannes to take classes, attend scientific conferences and collaborate with tech companies and academic institutions alike on value-creating projects.

Another data scientist, Xiaoying Wu, similarly identified professional development as an important part of his experience at Johnson & Johnson. "Johnson & Johnson always encourages us when it comes to continued education, workshops, conferences, trainings and opportunities to grow."

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Johnson & Johnson is not only a great consumer products, pharmaceutical or medical devices company, but the biggest healthcare company in the world—and we're investing in the latest technology to advance patients' lives.

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What's Next in This Exciting Field?

The human body generates an estimated two terabytes of data from brain and muscle activity each and every day, and finding ways to harness that data will help us deliver better health outcomes across a host of applications, from wearables that will dramatically improve patient monitoring to the technology-driven surgical operating rooms of the future.

Rami Musa, Senior Manager in Supply Chain Advanced Analytics at Johnson & Johnson, explained: "There's an abundance of data these days, and with advancements in computational power we can harness it to better serve all types of stakeholders—from patients to entire communities."

At Johnson & Johnson, we're always looking to add to our roster of bright minds and compassionate hearts. If you share our passion for improving health and want to join us, check out all of the opportunities we have available today.

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