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Data Science: Q&A with IFoA Member Lisa Balboa

Lisa Balboa chairs the Regulation & Ethics work stream of the IFoA’s Data Science MIG, and is an active contributor to the IFoA’s Health and Care Practice area. Opinions expressed here are her own.

 

Lisa BalboaTo what extent do actuaries already use data science tools in the healthcare sector? And from your perspective, what are the benefits of establishing transferable skills between data science and actuarial science?

In healthcare, one of the most impressive uses of data science I’ve come across is hospitals using analytics to forecast the number of patients likely to arrive at their doors in the coming week. Hospital managers use these predictions to adjust staffing and other resources to ensure anticipated patient demand is met. This forecasting is particularly useful in times of peak demand, such as ensuring hospitals have the capacity to cope in a severe winter flu outbreak.

But these models are only being used in a few isolated hospitals. As actuaries, we’re in a good position to draw on our understanding of these data science techniques to help scale-up and encourage more widespread adoption of predictive healthcare tools. We can also use our strong skills of communicating technical information to non-technical stakeholders. This supports healthcare decision-makers to understand, and react appropriately, to these dynamic healthcare forecasts.

What kind of framework must be in place for data to be readily exchangeable across health system stakeholders? And what potential exists to scale-up opportunities in using this data for predictive healthcare demand modelling?

Having common data storage and programming languages is vital if we’re to succeed in embedding predictive healthcare demand modelling right across the health system. Initiatives, such as the FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) standard, are a great first step in moving towards a system where data can be exchanged across the health service. It’s important to have robust data privacy and data governance frameworks that empower individuals to engage with their health and lifestyle data.

I envisage a personal health record system that places individuals at the centre of their data. The personal health record would allow each person to take ownership of their data and decide whether and when to share this data with their medical team. Individuals could also give consent for the de-identification of their data to be fed into medical research and healthcare resource management activities.

As adoption of AI-based data science tools in healthcare increases, how important is it to ensure that algorithms can be embedded into society in a fair, ethical way, to identify and mitigate possible algorithmic biases? And what can actuaries contribute to public debate around this topic?

The adoption of AI-based data science tools is on the rise throughout pretty much all aspects of our daily lives. With algorithmic decision-making becoming so pervasive, it’s important to ensure we embed this technology into society in a fair and ethical way. Actuaries have much to offer in this area. From a technical standpoint, we can help to identify and mitigate biases that are present in training datasets being used by the models. We also have a lot to contribute when it comes to developing these algorithms. Many such algorithms are designed to maximise resource efficiency. But we should be going further to consider fairness as part of the resource allocation process.

In a field with such a rapid pace of development, ethical adoption of new data science techniques is critical. Particularly as regulation can often take time to catch-up to technological change. As actuaries, we’re well-situated to engage directly with the public and other stakeholders, to help them to understand how their data is being used by these algorithms. We can help to ensure that algorithmic decision-making is transparent and explainable. This will give the public greater opportunity to voice their opinions on what they believe is a fair and ethical way for this pervasive technology to be embedded into our lives. 

What career opportunities for actuaries to work alongside data science specialists in the healthcare sector do you see – now and going forward?

The knowledge and expertise that data science experts bring when analysing large volumes of specialised medical data helps to drive developments in healthcare analytics. As actuaries, we are likely to remain highly reliant on data science experts for these deep insights into specialised datasets. Also as actuaries, we are well-placed to work closely with data science specialists by combining these healthcare analytics insights with our strong understanding of business, finance and risk management.

This could lead to growing career opportunities for actuaries to work alongside data science experts to build models that optimise financial and medical resources. I’d like to see actuaries and data science specialists collaborating with a wide range of other stakeholders such as healthcare professionals and medical researchers to help develop more effective, personalised treatment pathways and thereby improve health outcomes for society.

With specific reference to insurance, how do you believe data science techniques will prove of the greatest value to actuaries working in this field of expertise?

We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface in terms of thinking about how to embed the wide array of emerging data science techniques into our actuarial work. There’s tremendous potential to drive value creation by applying these tools to improve our understanding of how risks interact and to optimise insurance portfolios. It’s interesting to consider this question in the context of broader technological change. We’re increasingly seeing consumers adopting wearable tech, mobile apps and other connected devices into their daily lives. This technology is helping people to engage with their health more often and in new ways. With strong data privacy and data governance frameworks in place, there may be the opportunity for actuaries to use data science techniques to gain a better understanding of customers’ key insurance needs.

Using this deeper understanding of the customer, actuaries could champion the development of new insurance products that are more dynamic in their response to individuals’ health and lifestyle needs. With a growing availability of data and with technological developments continuing to raise customer expectations, actuaries will increasingly adopt more advanced data science techniques. I’d like to see us collaborating with a wide range of experts to embed data science into the insurance industry in a way that enhances business value and drives improvements for customers and society.

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  • KSS event – The Future of the Actuarial Profession with Alan Watson

    Willis Towers Watson 2 Lochrin Square, 96 Fountainbridge, Edinburgh EH3 9QA
    23 September 2019

    Spaces available

    This KSS talk will explore how the Actuarial Profession is changing by looking at the past, the current and the future; considering what will be the key issues impacting the Profession over the next 20 years and why this will be different from today. Why will areas like data science be important?  What does the future hold for reserved roles? What impact will the Profession have on other professionals?  And much more!

  • GIRO Conference 2019

    EICC, The Exchange, 150 Morrison St, Edinburgh EH3 8EE
    24-26 September 2019
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    GRIO 2019

  • Career Event - Count Me In, Edinburgh

    Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS
    2 October 2019

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    Join us and leading actuarial employers at our free Count Me In STEM careers event in Edinburgh organised by the IFoA.

    Find out more about a range of rewarding careers in actuarial science and how we are supporting and promoting diversity in the profession. 

  • The Future of the Actuarial Profession

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn London WC1V 7QJ
    3 October 2019

    Fully booked.

     

    Three actuaries – and CEOs – discuss their views on how the business world is changing and what that might mean for actuaries in the future.

  • Spaces available

    Have you ever thought about working in wider fields? Would you like to play a role in the fight against climate change to make the planet better? 

    It can be difficult to do this - but seeing an example you can follow can make it more realistic. In this ‘green’ case study a template is outlined to show how actuaries can apply their skills more broadly - and in doing so, to make a difference.

  • RSS/IFoA Data Science Ethics: the role of practitioners

    Royal Statistical Society, 12 Errol St, London EC1Y 8LX
    7 October 2019

    Spaces available

    The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries and the Royal Statistical Society have worked together to develop joint ethics guidance on data science. This is the culmination of an 18 month programme of practitioner led work. 
     
    Join us for the launch of this new guidance, with a high-level panel discussion which will explore the role of data science practitioners and professional bodies in data ethics. 

  • SIAS Event: AGM and talk on a Monetary Approach to Economics

    Staple Inn Hall. High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    8 October 2019

    Spaces available

    The SIAS Annual General Meeting will commence at 5.45pm and be followed by a talk given by the well known economist and author, Steve Keen, at 6pm. A live webinar will be available. 

  • Career Event - Count Me In

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    10 October 2019

    Spaces available

    Join us and leading actuarial employers at our free Count Me In STEM careers event in London organised by the IFoA.

    Find out more about a range of rewarding careers in actuarial science and how we are supporting and promoting diversity in the profession. 

  • KSS Event – GAD: the 100 year life (Edinburgh)

    KPMG  Saltire Court 20 Castle Terrace Edinburgh EH1 2EG
    22 October 2019

    Spaces available

    The Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) marks its centenary this year. George Russell, formerly Deputy Government Actuary, who currently heads up GAD’s Edinburgh office, leading on GAD support to the devolved administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland, will outline GAD’s development over that period and its range of work today. Having just “celebrated” his 25th anniversary of joining GAD, George will also reflect on some of the challenges and opportunities of advising at the interface of the actuarial and the political worlds.

  • KSS Event – Equity Release Mortgages: The Irish Experience

    Room CM S.01 (Second floor, Colin Maclaurin Building, building 22 on the campus map.) Campus maps can be found at https://www.hw.ac.uk/uk/edinburgh/map.htm
    23 October 2019

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    This is a co-branded KSS/Heriot-Watt University event.  Equity release mortgages (ERMs), also called lifetime mortgages, have played an increasing role in generating income for retired home-owners.  As new liquidity rules have reduced the supply of bank lending, so insurers have stepped in, encouraged by generous regulatory treatment for annuity writers.

  • KSS event – GAD: the 100 year life (Glasgow)

    Barnett Waddingham 163 West George Street, Glasgow, G2 2JJ
    24 October 2019

    Spaces available

    The Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) marks its centenary this year. George Russell, formerly Deputy Government Actuary, who currently heads up GAD’s Edinburgh office, leading on GAD support to the devolved administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland, will outline GAD’s development over that period and its range of work today. Having just “celebrated” his 25th anniversary of joining GAD, George will also reflect on some of the challenges and opportunities of advising at the interface of the actuarial and the political worlds.

  • Sessional Meeting - Autonomous Vehicles and impacts on the wider insurance industry

    Staple Inn, High Holborn, London WC1V 7QJ         
    28 October 2019

    Spaces available

    The Sessional Meeting is now fully booked.

    Please click here to register on the waiting list.

     

    The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries is running a sessional meeting on autonomous vehicles on 28th October.  The session will showcase the work of the IFoA “Autonomous Vehicles” working party alongside a number of expert external presenters. 

  • ARC Event: Beyond Proportional Hazards

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    30 October 2019

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    ARC Event: Beyond Proportional Hazards: Statistical methods for assessment of the impact of medical advances and health interventions on longevity and population projections.

    This workshop is being delivered by the Actuarial Research Centre’s (ARC) ‘Big Health and Actuarial Data’ Research Programme.

  • Hot Topics in Health and Care: Networking and Drinks

    Staple Inn, 4 High Holborn, London WC1V 6DR
    4 November 2019

    Spaces available

    This evening will feature two new cases studies that highlight the implications for insurers of issues impacting on health and mortality for life, pensions, and health and care products; Impactability modelling: a worked example in Type II diabetes presented by Josephine Robertson, and Seasonal Mortality in England and Wales 1993-2016 presented by Mary Hall, Dublin City University.

  • SIAS Event: Introduction to the Mortality Research Steering Committee (MRSC)

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    5 November 2019

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    The MRSC is responsible for guiding the profession’s research in the areas of longevity, mortality and morbidity such that it is recognised as a thought leader in this area. It has recently been reviewing what the priorities and have identified 6 areas that we believe are the most important areas of research that should be the current focus and these are:

  • IFoA CPD Co-ordinators' Briefing

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn London WC1V 7QJ
    7 November 2019

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    The theme of this year’s annual briefing is: Lifelong Learning – providing continuous development for our members.

    This event is primarily for volunteer CPD Co-ordinators, who attend to represent their organisation. CPD Co-ordinators play a key role in effective engagement between organisations who employ our members and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFOA).

  • The challenges for AI in Autonomous driving – Professor Andrew Blake

    Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, 11 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JQ
    11 November 2019

    Spaces available

    In conjunction with the Scottish Board and supporting the IFoA’s focus on data science.

    The IFoA’s Scottish Board have arranged for UK pioneer in Computer Vision and Machine Intelligence, Professor Andrew Blake to speak to delegates on the subject of AI in Autonomous driving. This lecture will focus on safety-critical operation and the computation of risk.  

  • Autumn Pension Seminar

    Grand Connaught Rooms, 61-65 Great Queen St, Holborn, London WC2B 5DA
    13 November 2019

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    Join us for this brand new seminar that brings together our Current Issues in Pensions, Pensions and the Law, and Investment for Pension Actuaries events. The seminar builds on the IFoA’s Annual Pension Conference with sessions covering CDC, TPR’s code of practice, investments, legal updates and Professional Skills Training with a focus on interactive discussion throughout.

  • KSS event: How is Scotland’s population changing and what are the implications?

    Barnett Waddingham, 163 West George Street, Glasgow, G2 2JJ
    14 November 2019

    Spaces available

    The National Records of Scotland (NRS) collects, preserves and produces information about Scotland's people and history to inform current and future generations - work that underpins the fabric of Scottish society and tells the story of our nation. This KSS talk will explore the following and other areas impacting Scotland’s changing population, and assess the potential implications of the changes:

    • population statistics
    • life expectancy
    • changes in age structure
    • birth and death rates, including causes of death statistics.
  • Life Conference 2019

    The Convention Centre Dublin, Spencer Dock, North Wall Quay, Dublin 1
    20-22 November 2019
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    The Life Conference is the premier event for professionals interested in life insurance.  Offering a wide range of workshops and plenary sessions it’s the perfect opportunity to discover what’s hot and current in life insurance ensuring you get up to date on the latest thinking and innovation whilst meeting and exchanging ideas with a broad range of professionals.

  • ARC Workshop: Modelling Socio-Economic Differences in English Mortality

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    2 December 2019

    Spaces available

    Purpose
    The workshop will give participants detailed insights into how a large and detailed dataset can be used to assess levels of mortality inequality in England, using a number of novel statistical methods. We will also address the question: are regional variations in mortality real or imaginary?

  • Autumn Lecture 2019, London - Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP

    Lincoln's Inn The Treasury Office, London WC2A 3TL
    2 December 2019

    Fully booked.

    The IFoA is pleased to announce that this year’s Autumn Lecture will feature the Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP as its guest speaker.  Nicky has previously served as Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Minister for Women. She now chairs the Treasury Select Committee whose remit is to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of HM Treasury, along with all of its agencies and associated bodies.

  • Autumn Lecture 2019: Live Streaming

    Webinar 
    2 December 2019

    Spaces available

    Watch the live stream of this year's Autumn Lecture with guest speaker Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP. 

  • SIAS Event: Discount Rates are Flawed

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    3 December 2019

    Spaces available

    This talk will be given by Jon Spain who, as far back as 1983, has been working independently, trying to bring “long-term” back to UK actuarial thinking. His current focus is on discount rates (see discrate.com).

  • SIAS Event: My Journey to Data Science, Big Data and AI

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    7 January 2020

    Spaces available

    Patrick Lee is an actuary who has made the transition to working in software architecture and artificial intelligence (AI). He holds Microsoft Professional qualifications in Data Science, Big Data and AI and is currently working towards a DevOps (the automation of software testing and deployment) qualification. He is a member of the IFoA Council and is also President of the Wessex Actuarial Society. He is also a member of the IFoA and the RSS's joint Data Science Focus Group and will talk on the ethical use of AI. 

  • Behavioural Finance Research Launch- 14 January 2020

    Staple Inn, 4 High Holborn, Holborn, London WC1V 6DR
    14 January 2020

    Fully booked.

    We are delighted to announce the launch of the findings from our ARC funded Behavioural Finance research with a special evening event at Staple Inn on Tuesday 14th January 2020. Entitled Behavioural Aspects of Institutional Investment Decision-Making, this research programme is being delivered by City, University of London, Leeds University Business School and Ipsos.

    This event is now full. Please register for the waiting list.

  • Sessional: Impact of E-cigarettes Working Party

    Royal College of Physicians, 9 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JQ
    24 February 2020

    Spaces available

    This sessional meeting will be of direct interest to actuaries and others working in the in the Health and Care, Life or Pensions sectors or indeed actuaries with an interest in morbidity or mortality.