Collective Health Wins Ptolemy Data Science Award, Celebrating Work of Data Pioneers


“We are explorers. Since the beginning, we have searched the land, sea, and stars. Through curiosity and discovery, we begin to understand the world around us. Few have the honor of unraveling the mysteries of our past. Fewer still, the courage to shape our future. An evolution is taking place — our world is changing faster than ever before. Through living data, we are unlocking the human potential to understand our universe in new ways, and are forging ahead toward the new data frontier.”

— Introduction to the Ptolemy Data Science Award


Seagate’s Ptolemy Data Science Award honors people who use data to benefit humanity

Seagate is proud to congratulate this year’s winner of the Ptolemy Data Science Award, a unique commendation that celebrates organizations and individuals that use data to benefit humanity.

The second annual Ptolemy Data Science Award has been presented to Collective Health, an innovative startup company that’s pioneering new ways of using data to fulfill its mission: to create a healthcare system that is affordable, effortless to navigate, and makes people healthier by transforming employer-sponsored health insurance. Collective Health has developed a Workforce Health Management System (WHMS) — a new category of enterprise software and services that utilizes data to help employers manage their healthcare investment, and take better care of their people.

“We were absolutely thrilled to receive the Ptolemy Data Science Award,” said Ali Diab, co-founder and CEO of Collective Health. “Winning this award means that we’re doing something that has a profound impact on our society, and that we’re leveraging data in a way that truly is unique.”

Collective Health receives the 2018 Ptolemy Data Science award

Collective Health senior VP of Product Development Adam Kovalevsky (center) accepts the Ptolemy Award from Seagate CTO Mark Re (left) and VP of Marketing Jeff Fochtman.

After a brush with a major medical emergency, company co-founder and CEO Ali Diab endured a lengthy, difficult effort to work through the arcane, opaque processes of his insurance company to understand what would be covered, why the costs were so high and how to get those costs reimbursed. With fresh and immediate insights on the significant personal impacts caused by weaknesses in the US healthcare system, he connected with Dr. Rajaie Batniji to discuss the systemic issues that led to his ordeal with navigating his medical bills, and what could be done to fix those problems. Batniji joined Diab as a co-founder and Chief Health Officer at Collective Health.

Medical technology keeps advancing; patient coverage is stuck in the past

Diab and Batniji note that while medical technology continues to take giant steps forward, somehow the systems driving health coverage are still stuck in the past. They believe patients are often left to advocate for themselves in a healthcare system where all of the economic incentives are misaligned, and that trying to get a clear answer from one’s health insurance company about what’s driving costs is nearly impossible.

Ali Diab Co-Founder and CEO Collective Health

They note that one-fifth of America’s GDP goes toward paying for healthcare, yet patients have no visibility into why things cost what they do, and the experience of interacting with health insurers can feel as if the digital revolution never happened.

Diab and Batniji decided to dedicate themselves to fixing how Americans interact with and pay for their healthcare — by maximizing the potential of data. By rebuilding the infrastructure that powers employer sponsored health insurance, and reimagining the way people interact with their health benefits , Collective Health is changing healthcare for the better. “With the technology to create a more intelligent solution and the compassion to know that every person matters, we deliver a connected healthcare experience for companies who want the best for their employees,” said Diab.

On a daily basis, the company receives data from over 100 different sources. This data allows Collective Health to holistically look at a person’s healthcare journey, and anticipate what types of care each individual might need. Collective Health then uses data to inform how it designs and develops products.

Can data help shape the future of healthcare?

In a recent blog, Diab offered compelling examples to describe how the company’s vision can impact people’s lives.

“Imagine a world where you, as someone covered by your employer’s health benefit plan, were guided  —  through a combination of machine learning-based data analysis algorithms and a consumer-grade user experience (think Amazon or Apple here)  —  to the most appropriate care for you,” Diab envisioned. “Imagine using a health plan that understood that your influenza was potentially more serious than you may have thought and routed you to a virtual visit where your doctor prescribed a powerful antiviral treatment  —  all without having to leave the comfort of your home.”

Collective Health - the Journey of Care

“Or imagine using a health plan that knew that your employer covered autism care for your family and had already contracted with highly-qualified autism therapy specialists,” he continued. “Imagine calling or emailing your plan only to have a recommendation already waiting for you, along with software and people on the other end who anticipated your needs and automatically scheduled a visit for you or a loved one at a time and place most convenient for you given what they knew about your office location and the hours that you worked.”

Susan Dybbs, VP of Design at Collective Health, explains how the platform is designed to achieve this vision.

“We’re actually thinking about how someone is going about getting care,” said Dybbs. “What we can do is bring all of the data together — meaning all of the data about you, all the data about your family member, about your illnesses — and bring it together to have better access, as well as to use it to predict what types of treatment and care you could use.”

Diab knows this may seem like science fiction, compared with the state of the healthcare system most Americans live with today. But this is the future Collective Health intends to make real with its WHMS.

A software and services platform that improves health outcomes and reduces cost

Collective Health mobile interface“A WHMS unifies all of an employer’s health and wellness plans and programs into one extremely powerful and intuitive user experience for employees and their families,” said Diab. “At the same time, a WHMS provides employer HR and Finance teams with real-time data on the use and effectiveness of those plans and programs. The result is that both employees and employers benefit from a single, intuitive system to access and navigate all information and options related to their health benefit plans.”

The data needed to enable this level of intelligent control exists, but until now it’s been untapped, and has been typically difficult to access and manage using today’s traditional health insurance infrastructure.

Batniji notes the disconnect between traditional healthcare processes, versus the power of the Datasphere people now experience every day in other parts of the economy. “If Netflix can recommend to me that I’m going to watch this movie and really enjoy it, and Amazon can remind me when I need to buy more diapers for my one-year-old, we believe that a health plan should borrow from those same approaches to recommend care that you need at the time that you need it,” he said. 

To harness the deep and detailed data needed to improve the very complex domain of healthcare has required significant innovation. “We use everything from virtualization back-end tools, some of the very latest machine learning, and AI-like techniques to analyze and process data and regress data of large scale,” said Diab. “Data is the foundation of our business. We have Terabytes of data, and that is growing by a factor of 4 every year.”

New ways data can help people struggling with medical issues

Ultimately, Collective Health believes that leveraging this data in new ways will help people when they need it the most — by revolutionizing the healthcare experience for people who are struggling with serious medical issues, or simply working to make sure their family stays healthy.

“Fundamentally, we create different experiences for people,” said Dybbs. “It’s hard to figure out where to go to when you need help. But we can provide that resource by using that data, and by creating that full platform — that full ecosystem — we can help better navigate people to care.”

“We’re challenging the status quo of, frankly, the most untouched industry by technology,” said Batniji. “So if we can at least just set an example of how it can be done, I hope that others in the industry will follow — and I’d consider that a success.”

Why the Ptolemy Award honors pioneers in data science

With more and more data being created, explored and analyzed every year, the field of data science is constantly evolving. Seagate established the annual Ptolemy Data Science Award in 2017 to honor groundbreaking work in data science that is helping improve the lives of others. The winner receives a $25K grant and $10K worth of Seagate products to continue their work in changing lives for the better.

Seagate’s award is named for Ptolemy, also known as Claudius Ptolemaeus, a mathematician, astronomer and geographer who lived circa AD 100 to 170 in the city of Alexandria, Egypt, wrote his works in Koine Greek, and held Roman citizenship. Ptolemy was a pioneer in collecting and analyzing data. He created a model for predicting the positions of the planets based on centuries of observational data, and his methods had a major influence on future generations of scientists.

Seagate evaluates candidates for the Ptolemy Data Science Award using several important criteria: social impact (which describes the nature and durability of the project’s positive impact on human lives); creative exploration (new and innovative ways the project uses data); and scientific advancement (the introduction of scalable tools or methods that advance the state of the art in data handling).

The inaugural award winner, CyArk, was recognized for their important work in the use of data to help preserve the world’s cultural heritage sites. Read about this incredible story here.

Learn more about Collective Health’s innovative use of data in the video below, and learn about the Ptolemy Data Science Award, including how to submit nominations for consideration for next year’s award, here.



About the Author:

John Paulsen
John Paulsen is a "Data for Good" advocate, with more than 20 years in the data storage industry. He's helped launch many industry-firsts including HAMR technology, 10K-rpm and 15K-rpm hard drives, drives designed specifically for video and for gaming, Serial ATA drives, fluid dynamic HDD motors, 60TB SSDs, and MACH.2 multi-actuator technology.