At Every Age and Stage: Harnessing the promise of data science to advance human health

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At Every Age and Stage: Harnessing the promise of data science to advance human health

This article is part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders — from around the world and all parts of society — address the COVID-19 crisis, discussing and developing solutions now and for the future. It aims to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help us rise to this critical challenge. Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.

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At Johnson & Johnson, we solve some of the world’s most challenging healthcare problems with technology. Just as doctors use scalpels and stethoscopes, we use data science, algorithms, artificial intelligence and robotics to transform patients’ lives.

For more than 130 years, we have aimed to keep people well at every age and stage of life. In recent years, the Johnson & Johnson Executive Committee has prioritised data science as a key area of focus for the Company. And now, through this focus and related investments, we are leveraging data and digital tools to accelerate and deliver better, higher quality care for doctors, nurses, patients and millions of customers around the world.

At the core of our work lies an ethical and secure approach to digital and data — within Johnson & Johnson, throughout our value chain, and for all those who count on us. We prioritise the sensitivity of the information we handle and build frameworks that protect patient data. We shape regulatory protocols to ensure appropriate use of data, and we provide a secure digital environment for our teams to operate effectively and efficiently.

Faced with the challenges of COVID-19 this year, Johnson & Johnson has harnessed data science to optimise product availability, commercial efforts, clinical trial processes and vaccine production.

  • Our COVID-19 visibility dashboard allows J&J to better support global patient needs by understanding near-real-time product availability to help make fact-based decisions regarding planning, distribution and business continuity
  • Our end-to-end network scenario impact simulation allows J&J to sustain supply and meet demand surges for patients and customers by minimising supply disruptions during the COVID-19 crisis using highly automated scenario risk simulation technology, predicting the impact of raw material supply fluctuations on our capacity
  • We have innovated around clinical trials to empower participants through direct-to-participant clinical trial capabilities; home visits by healthcare providers (expansion of Home Health Nursing programmes); and expanded use of telemedicine; and direct-to-patient shipments
  • We are improving the healthcare provider (HCP) experience by dynamically driving channel recommendations for promotional activities based on how HCP touch points have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • We have used digital twin models of COVID-19 vaccine production processes to simulate and study end-to-end plant productivity, materials flow, equipment utilisation and shift patterns — enabling J&J to identify productivity bottlenecks and design the best plant

And while the global pandemic has been a fertile proving ground for the power of data science, the promise of the discipline extends far into the future. We’re securely connecting our data across the organisation to make better and faster decisions; using advanced analytics to plan and improve process controls; and advancing clinical trials and screening new medicine candidates faster than ever before, so we can deliver safe and effective new medicines to patients in need. In order to continue to improve human health as the world’s largest and most broadly based healthcare company, we know that we must continue to progress in data science as well as other disruptive technologies such as intelligent automation and artificial intelligence.

Also on the Forum Network: Breaking the Cycle of Disruptive Global Epidemics by Kamran Khan, Founder and CEO, BlueDot

But these technologies are only as good as the people behind them. This is why talent is priority number one for all leaders at Johnson & Johnson. While we need to attract, develop and retain diverse talent across a very broad set of disciplines, we know that data science talent in particular is scarce and brings unique considerations. For the individuals in this field, it is not enough to offer competitive compensation and benefits or visa sponsorship. They are rightfully looking for more out of their career experience, including:

  • Expansive data sets
  • Ability to make an impact
  • Autonomy and collaboration
  • Fast-paced environment
  • Work/life balance
  • Entrepreneurial/innovative community

Another fundamental point is the all-important culture element that is key to creating the right environment for data science talent. And it’s why we are working to make digital a core competency of our diverse global workforce. We are prioritising the creation of a diverse, distributed workforce who reflects the patients, customers and communities we serve, and whose differences in opinions, experiences and ways of thinking and working drive creativity. We aspire to operate as a seamless and inclusive team, working across business and technology using common frameworks, such as agile. We are paying close attention to the future-ready skillsets needed to continue to advance human health and establishing fulfilling career paths for those who choose to join us.

This transformational journey in J&J, and in healthcare systems, needs adequate policy and regulatory frameworks, which hold innovation at their core, while upholding the highest ethical standards to build trust and foster the development and uptake of digital solutions. Trust is in the essence of everything we do in healthcare. We need it for people to feel safe and empowered when sharing and using their data while protecting their privacy. Consistent policies on avoiding bias in data collection and access to data are essential to allow the development of artificial intelligence solutions, which address the right question at the right time for the right person, as the gateway to personalised medicine with equitable access. Upskilling the healthcare workforce, building digital infrastructure, addressing digital divides and supporting digital literacy are fundamental to build trust and optimise the integration and use of digital breakthrough solutions for the benefit of patients and healthcare systems.

With these cultural elements in place, and leadership that fosters an innovative, test-and-learn environment, we have the key building blocks needed to enable our company’s digital transformation — and in turn, create a better, healthier world. Because while it is exciting to work with large data sets and modern technologies, we do all of this in service to the greater purpose of advancing human health.

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