Covid-19 has made medical data analysts a hot commodity

Public health systems and the entire medtech sector rely on a very limited pool of trained professionals

Maayan Manela 17:4622.07.20
In these days of a global pandemic, during which we all consume daily data on infections, recoveries and deaths from Covid-19, trying to make sense of all the graphs and charts, there is a growing demand for people who know how to derive insights from medical data. Medical big data analysts have become one of the most sought after professions in the industry. Every research institute, hospital, health fund, medical insurance company, pharmaceutical firm and medical startup, is in dire need of analysts these days.


In Israel, there are currently about 500 people working as medical data analysts in the various organizations and the demand for them is only increasing. In addition, there is a huge demand for such professionals in biomed and infomed companies, venture capital funds that deal with the field of medicine or digital health, and medical startups.


Medical data analysts are in high demand. Photo: Shutterstock Medical data analysts are in high demand. Photo: Shutterstock
There are more than 500 such companies in Israel in addition to dozens of foreign companies active here. For example, Triventures ARC, a new venture capital fund that was established as part of a partnership between Triventures and Sheba medical center. Its goal is to invest in medical startups in the fields of digital medicine, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, telemedicine, and more, with over 500 venture capital deals examined each year.


"The need for manpower exists now and will only increase. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the need and freed up blockages even in the national health services. There is no choice, anyone who wants to be a player in the medical arena will have to train personnel to analyze and manage their data,” said Dr. Refael Barkan, head of the Research Innovation and International Ventures Authority at Holon Institute of Technology (HIT) and the founder of its Digital Technologies in Medicine program.


According to a report published by Forbes, the demand for data scientists will rise by 28% towards 2021. The Harvard Business Review found that the industry needs to increase the number of data scientists by 80%.


According to April 2020 figures from tech placement company Ethosia, the salary of an inexperienced data analyst ranges from NIS 10,000-12,000 ($3,000-3,500) per month, analysts with two years of experience earn between NIS 12,000 to NIS 16,000 ($3,500 - $4,700) per month, and those with five to eight years under their belts can earn NIS 17,000 to 24,000 ($5,000 - $7,000) a month. An analyst team leader earns between NIS 24,000 and 26,000 ($7,000 -$7,600) a month, and an experienced manager with five or more years of experience earns between NIS 27,000 and NIS 30,000 ($7,900-$8,800) a month.


There are two types of medical data, the first is the traditional, medical file found in HMOs and hospitals. The second type is the information generated by the patients themselves in smartwatches, mobile apps, and virtual visits.


Dr. Refael Barkan, Holon Institute of Technology. Photo: PR Dr. Refael Barkan, Holon Institute of Technology. Photo: PR
"One of the main challenges is that there is a massive gap between the traditional information and that which is produced by the patients since their data cannot be put into the medical files for regulatory reasons and because it requires validation. This gap is a global challenge and where the human capital issue comes into play," said Barkan. "Since the medical staff does not have the ability to analyze the data, a whole layer of people is needed to be in charge of processing the data and deriving clinical insights from it. There is a need for people who know how to analyze the data and understand enough about the medical world to glean insights.”


Barkan said that the training process for the role is long due to its complexity. “Even people with a background in computer science and biology will take at least a year to be efficient in the industry," he said. Though the need for data medical analyst is urgent, there is currently no dedicated program or provisional conversion track to satisfy the demand. HIT has a program for undergraduate studies in digital technologies in medicine that will address the need in a few years, but not immediately, he said.