Meet the Innovators: data scientists crack the career code, finding purpose in healthcare transformation

Meet the Innovators

Welcome to “Meet the Innovators,” a series profiling leaders and frontline change agents working in and with HCA Healthcare’s Department of Care Transformation and Innovation (CT&I). Learn how they got where they are and how they are helping build the future of patient-centered care. 

Imprecise equation for a healthcare career

HCA Healthcare has long been purposeful about innovating to better the human condition, from sharing best practices across one of the nation’s first hospital systems, to building a clinical data warehouse that leveraged data to support care in the early days of electronic health records (EHRs), to using that data to help the nation navigate a global pandemic. And with more than 37 million patient encounters annually, we see opportunities to innovate at scale that are not as visible or possible at other healthcare organizations.

As we work to help our 294,000 colleagues provide the best possible care across 182 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, we take pride in the ways we prioritize innovation, including through our Department of Care Transformation and Innovation (CT&I). And while all of our colleagues know that when they find a way to improve care for one patient, it can improve healthcare for millions of patients, that concept resonates especially strongly with our CT&I data scientists.

Driven by innovation, data scientists across all industries use highly specialized skillsets to organize and analyze raw data for innovation, efficiency and growth. But if they want to innovate with purpose and impact, some choose to pursue a unique career pathway in healthcare. Our small team of CT&I data scientists recently joined the ranks of talented innovators before them who have used AI, machine learning and life-saving technology to improve patient outcomes, including the development of our award-winning SPOT platform that transformed how we identify sepsis cases.

Today, they write code, build applications and research common links or trends by analyzing our complex digital data system to improve patient care. But, just a few years ago, these innovators couldn’t imagine their shared destiny: a sought-after career coding the architecture for healthcare transformation. Below, they share their stories of passion and purpose that led them to this work, as well as insights into why data scientists are essential to HCA Healthcare’s commitment to the care and improvement of human life.

Innovating with impact: Hannah Marshall

Headshot of Hannah Marshall
Hannah Marshall, Manager of Data Science, HCA Healthcare’s Clinical Services Group and Department of Care Transformation and Innovation

Healthcare runs in Hannah’s family. She had a great appreciation for the work of healthcare professionals, but math was the center of her universe. It was through a first-year college computer science course that she realized she could combine her passions — healthcare, math and a developing interest in computer science.

Hannah joined HCA Healthcare affiliate Mission Health in North Carolina six years ago as a data science intern. She had the opportunity to collaborate with GE HealthCare on innovative projects, including length of stay and discharge predictions, as well as a readmission predictor. During her time at Mission Health, she found purpose in using her data science talent to support care delivery. In April 2020, she moved to HCA Healthcare’s headquarters in Nashville to support our Clinical Services Group (CSG) as the team captured pandemic data to support COVID-19 care.

Today, Hannah Marshall is a manager of data science for CSG and CT&I, overseeing the team developing HCA Healthcare’s Timpani℠ platform of solutions, including a transformational, automated scheduling and staffing solution. Timpani is a family of products that are on beat, on time, and in sync with care team members, patients, projects and technology.  The Timpani solution was developed in-house by CT&I, in collaboration with Palantir, a Denver-based company, using a rules-based logic algorithm capable of producing an automated schedule from an expansive selection of inputs, including care team preferences, clinician talent profiles and predictive patient volumes. Timpani optimizes scheduling and staffing to ensure we have the right care teams available to meet patient needs.

For Hannah, this solution represents a distinctive driving force behind her work: immediate impact.

“They say Gen Z cares more about purposeful work than any other generation, and the projects we’re working on either directly improve care for patients or support clinicians with tools to better perform their jobs,” said Hannah. “At HCA Healthcare, we are constantly looking for a better way, and we have the resources and scale to back it up, all in the service of helping improve people’s lives.”

“It’s a powerful thing when you get to see how the technologies your team helped develop make a measurable, meaningful difference to someone’s health. For this reason, I believe there is no better place to innovate with impact than right here, and that is enormously meaningful to me.” 

Hannah Marshall, manager of data science, HCA Healthcare’s Clinical Services Group and Care Transformation and Innovation

Using AI to innovate: Grant Swigart

Headshot of Grant Swigart
Grant Swigart, Data Scientist, HCA Healthcare’s Clinical Services Group and Department of Care Transformation and Innovation

While considering how to make his mark on the world, Grant recognized that he could apply his skills to transform repetitive, tedious tasks that few people enjoy. “I wanted to learn how we can use artificial intelligence (AI) to remove the grind from work, freeing people to pursue stimulating and creative endeavors and helping them discover more value in their work.”

He entered the professional world as a statistician, a role that afforded him the opportunity to cut his teeth in machine learning and AI. However, the lure of AI’s broader uses to make a more significant impact on the lives of patients and caregivers is what attracted him to healthcare data science. After considering HCA Healthcare’s scale and data science capabilities, Grant Swigart jumped at the opportunity to join the organization and apply his skills making a difference in the lives of others as a CSG and CT&I data scientist.

“HCA Healthcare has more data and greater ability to invest in cutting edge software than other health systems,” Grant explained. “That sets us apart, providing a really unique place to test and apply AI in our products and technology solutions that will touch so many lives now and in years ahead.”

One such future AI solution the CT&I team is working on is using large language models to summarize and extract data from medical documentation. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry by allowing medical professionals to quickly analyze vast amounts of patient data and images to make better informed decisions. It accurately summarizes complex medical reports, extracting important information and presenting it clearly and concisely. This can significantly improve the speed and efficiency of medical diagnoses and treatment planning, leading to better patient outcomes. Discovery work is now underway at two HCA Healthcare EDs, including UCF Lake Nona Hospital, part of HCA Florida Healthcare, and at TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center in Tennessee.

The future of AI in healthcare continues to be explored by data scientists like Grant. “When I joined HCA Healthcare two years ago, I had no idea I’d be working with such an incredible team writing predictive models for COVID, flu, RSV and pediatric diseases,” Grant said. “And it’s very rewarding that our team can put so much thought and effort into technology to give caregivers advance notice, gauging potential patient work intensity to inform staffing needs. Searching for a better way is in HCA Healthcare’s DNA, and that drives innovation.”

Related article: (HealthLeaders) The Exec: HCA Healthcare’s Michael Schlosser Takes On Innovation and Transformation

Exploring a new world of opportunities: Alexa Zylstra

Headshot of Alexa Zylstra
Alexa Zylstra, Associate Data Scientist, HCA Healthcare’s Clinical Services Group and Department of Care Transformation and Innovation

Though a high school chemistry teacher inspired Alexa to pursue her degree in chemistry, she found herself drawn to a world focused on math.

Alexa’s first job, a role at an online prescription glasses retailer, offered her an opportunity to manage a team focused on the company’s insurance rollout. Alexa was fascinated by the work, particularly “the healthcare side of things,” which included a wealth of data tracking. With her interest sparked, she transitioned to a data science program.

Alexa Zylstra joined HCA Healthcare in 2021 and works as an associate data scientist for CSG and CT&I. Like many healthcare data scientists, working with a vast amount of data appealed to her.

“Before applying, I’d learned that CT&I was focusing its work in the labor and delivery (L&D) space, specifically ethical practices, machine learning and equitable care for all women, which really spoke to me,” said Alexa. “That’s what motivated me to join HCA Healthcare and CT&I.”  

Alexa finds great inspiration for her work in HCA Healthcare’s mission: Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life. “Working in the L&D space for the Timpani scheduling and staffing solution, we’re helping to ensure that each patient and phase of labor has the proper level of care needed,” said Alexa. “With this technology, HCA Healthcare is not only improving the patient experience, but we’re also improving the colleague experience. That’s really inspiring to see.”

Alexa equates working in healthcare data science with building a new world full of opportunity. “Our team is extremely innovative in helping define new processes and routes for things. We’re fortunate that HCA Healthcare offers us the freedom to explore and the resources to do so,” said Alexa. “This offers us the ability and opportunity to safely break down barriers in support of better healthcare for patients and providers.”

Programming the solution: Ray Matsumoto

Headshot of Ray Matsumoto

Ray Matsumoto, Data Scientist, HCA Healthcare’s Clinical Services Group and Department of Care Transformation and Innovation

In graduate school, Ray found he could apply his love of problem-solving to programming, specifically using Python programming language. Soon after, he found his way to healthcare data science.

In September 2021, Ray Matsumoto joined CSG and CT&I as a data scientist. His education, combined with self-teaching, motivation and drive for a career with purpose, gave him a competitive edge in his data science career search — and HCA Healthcare a talented and valued colleague.

“There are many opportunities to learn data science concepts without necessarily being in a classroom. In addition to a more formal education, there are online resources for those interested in data science can access and learn on their own. Those tools were helpful to me in exploring a career in data science, and I now apply that knowledge towards solving the real-life problems we’re working on at HCA Healthcare.”

CT&I has broken down silos that previously prevented teams from understanding one another’s needs. The fruit of that labor is discovery work is made possible thanks to being able to work elbow-to-elbow with care teams.

Today, Ray credits frontline care team members with additional inspiration to advance his team’s important work. “Specifically with our Timpani automated scheduling and staffing solution, traveling to Henrico Doctors’ Hospital and hearing firsthand from nursing leaders how long it was taking to produce a schedule was extremely valuable,” said Ray.

“Now, not only are we helping nurse leaders more efficiently create these critical schedules, we’re helping them do so in a way that is accommodating nurse preferences while delivering excellent care. It is motivating to use data science and software to automate a process and, ultimately, improve colleague satisfaction.”

Designing the future of healthcare: Jackie Cheuvront

Headshot of Jackie Cheuvront
Jackie Cheuvront, Associate Data Scientist, HCA Healthcare’s Clinical Services Group and Department of Care Transformation and Innovation

Designing the future of patient-centered care wasn’t a first-choice career path for Jackie. Despite being raised by a family of healthcare providers, she first decided to go in a different direction: advertising and graphic design.

But while overseeing marketing for a prosthetics company, Jackie witnessed the impact of technology on improving the quality of life for patients with robotic limbs. She then pivoted to focusing on technology and healthcare and pursued a degree in computer science.

While studying, Jackie worked at HCA Healthcare affiliate TriStar Horizon Medical Center in Tennessee as an executive assistant. It was there that she observed first-hand obstacles that all healthcare facilities face, and she was inspired to make a difference. When she completed her computer science degree, Jackie Cheuvront joined the CSG/CT&I team last year as an associate data scientist.

Today, she divides her time between working on natural language processing to reduce the burden of clinician documentation and Timpani, our scheduling and staffing solution, as well as other future-focused CT&I initiatives.

“As technology rapidly advances, HCA Healthcare continually explores the latest and emerging trends. We are excited about the potential for wearable technology to help improve patient care and time-consuming processes like scheduling and documentation that can be partially automated,” said Jackie.

“If you want to innovate in data science, you can work almost anywhere. If you want to innovate with purpose and impact, you need to work somewhere with a strong mission. Today, ours is my driving force for innovation.”

Jackie Cheuvront, associate data science, HCA Healthcare’s Clinical Services Group and Care Transformation and Innovation

Advice from the innovators

While our CT&I data scientists came to this work from different backgrounds, they all were led to healthcare innovation by a desire for purpose in their work. And they offer advice for others who have a love for data science and are looking to make a difference in the lives of others.

Considering the ever-evolving healthcare environment CSG and CT&I’s data scientists work in, Alexa recommends being patient and open to the unknown. “Data science is a relatively new field, so you’ll never run out of things to learn about. Always keep an open mind, and always look for development opportunities.”

Continuing education is also critical to the entire data science team, Ray adds. “The field moves so fast, with new publications and algorithms coming out weekly, so we’re encouraged to invest 20 to 30 percent of our time focusing on the study of those advancements.”

Jackie sums it up best: “If data science and technology is something that interests you and you’re driven to make an impact, healthcare is where you need to be…and I can’t imagine a better place to do this work.”

At HCA Healthcare, innovation is driven by our mission: Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life. We will continue to build on our legacy of innovation by using data science and technology to transform how we deliver high-quality care to patients. If this work and mission inspire you, we encourage you to consider a career at HCA Healthcare!

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About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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