For some blood cancer patients, stem cell transplantation therapy is the only option. But our bodies will reject stem cells from incompatible donors, and people of the same ethnicity are far more likely to be compatible. Yet because most stem cell donors are of European ancestry, this means that the chances of finding a donor are much higher for white people – and lower for everybody else.
Mai Duong learned this the hard way. After being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, Duong was told she would need a stem cell transplant. Now, she is working to address this inequity. In 2018, Duong founded Swab the World, a foundation that educates people about the lack of diversity among stem cell donors, and it is getting an assist from MMA Gives, a campaign that gives non-profits, SMEs and NGOs the opportunity to work with Master of Management in Analytics (MMA) students to help meet their analytics goals.
Stem cell donors must be between the ages of 18 and 35, and there is no better place to reach a diverse crowd in that demographic than a university classroom. Swab the World holds 15-minutes Swab Talks on campus that raise awareness about stem cell donation, and encourage young people to register as donors. But the organization didn’t have a structured way to search for collaborators – it combed LinkedIn for instructors who taught classes that might attract students from diverse backgrounds.
Streamlining the process
But working with MMA students has enabled Duong to adopt a more efficient approach. MMA students have developed web scrapers that automate the prospecting process, and that gives Duong more time to focus on Swab the World’s core mission to educate people and register new stem cell donors.
“I did not even know this was possible. Everything was done manually before. It was a lot of hustling, and conducting outreach to university students and professors,” says Duong.
“But within a month of working with MMA students, we now have a thousand contacts that we can easily reach out to. It is shaping how we spend our time, and time is money. So, we are saving money at the same time.”
For MMA student Nadine Hamra, it was gratifying to work with an organization that is bringing more diversity to a health care service that is absolutely critical to those that need it.
“We wanted to help Swab the World with their mission – with anything that can be done faster and better,” says Hamra.
“One of their goals is to recruit more donors through education, and encourage them to sign up to the registry. It was not hard for us to apply analytics, because Swab the World was well-organized, and easy to communicate with. And it really helped to consider the different ways that we could bring value to them, and what would be valuable to them.”
This is only one of the many ways that analytics can help improve health care. At ELNA Medical, data is being used to optimize clinic operations, and help physicians deliver better care.
“In the health care industry, there is a lot of data fragmentation, and it is important for us to ensure that our clinics are standardized in implementing operating procedures,” says Zachary Stauber, the Chief Strategy Officer at ELNA.
“We want to ensure that our nationwide network of clinics is running optimally, and it is really a win-win situation when it does. It allows doctors to focus on patients, and saves patients from long wait times and improves overall outcomes.”
MMA student Uzair Ahmad is helping ELNA interpret the data it is already collecting. He has created a dashboard that aggregates data on operations to understand where inefficiencies are occurring, so they can be addressed.
“It helps ELNA figure out operational performance. The dashboard includes data on appointment cancellations, the number of new patients, and the number of repeat visits,” says Ahmad.
“It is an overview that can help ELNA determine which clinics are not being utilized to their full potential, and maybe even improve the quality of service. When they see that a clinic is experiencing a high number of cancellations, they can dig deeper, and try to figure out what is causing it.”
For Ahmad, it provided an opportunity to use data skills to make a positive contribution – and that is something he plans to continue to do.
“I wanted to give back to the community, and I saw health care as an opportunity to do that,” Ahmad. “There is an opportunity to make an impact, and there is even more that can be done. Based on your analysis, you can actually impact the lives of thousands of patients, and I am very interested in using my experience to do that.”