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Spotlight Interview with Amit Yaccobi

By Ben Gross

Nym's Linguistic team is where the magic happens, ensuring the Nym engine is able to understand how each medical chart describes the physician's experience and the patient encounter. We took a moment to speak with Amit Yaccobi, Nym's Computational Linguistics Team Leader.

Following his military service in the IDF's 8200 elite intelligence unit, Amit graduated from the Computational-Linguistic program at Tel-Aviv University. Amit worked previously at Intel, in a NLP research group responsible for adapting state of the art models into Intel's framework. Amit joined Nym's R&D team as the 6th employee, 3 years ago, and since has been working on bringing Nym's clinical understanding to the its high quality and high adaptability across different clients and services.

Describe Nym:

Amit:  At its base, Nym is a medical coding company, but our vision aims much higher. The potential and challenge for reaching medical understanding, which can enable medical research on a much deeper level, is just one aspect of what our technology will eventually lead to. Despite the fact that Nym is a medical coding company, we have the ability to make an impact on the entire medical research world. I work with an amazing group of people, and together we are working on changing the world of clinical medical understanding.

Tell us some more about your role at Nym

Amit: I lead the linguistic team at Nym. Nym stands on 3 pillars: The technological pillar which supports the algorithms, efficiency and security of Nym’s output. The clinical pillar which is responsible for the clinical knowledge and expertise of clinical facilities’ workflow and procedures, and the ability to reach clinical and coding insights. And most important (at least in my non-biased opinion) - the linguistic pillar, which is responsible for creating a powerful and generic language engine, that can understand the medical language and infer the clinical insights documented in the Patient’s chart. 

For example, there are multiple ways that a physician can express a specific diagnosis. Our linguistic engine has the ability to query the chart for this diagnosis, regardless of the specific phrasing. The engine also takes into consideration the context of the diagnosis, for example the relevancy of this diagnosis to the whole encounter, as well as whether it is the patient's subjective diagnosis or an objective diagnosis, etc.

As the Team leader I can see the broader picture and see where the team can develop new capabilities and provide new offerings which can increase Nym’s products portfolio, and improve our understanding across new domains in the clinical coding world.

Why did you choose to become a computational linguist?

Amit: I was always drawn to languages, and every exposure I had to a new language - was like a new world revealing itself to me. I decided to take my bachelor's degree in Computational Linguistics at Tel Aviv University in an effort to combine the worlds of language alongside the computational sciences, with the goal of finding a way to help computers accurately model natural languages. 

What’s your favorite part about the position? And the most challenging part?

Amit: My favorite part is to see where we can really make an impact, and see how Nym’s engine can be used to save medical centers from coding errors which can have long lasting repercussions. The most challenging part is twofold. Our responsibility is to develop highly accurate language understanding models, while also taking into account that different clients and different fields in medicine all have their own unique jargon, phrasing and terminology. This makes it crucial for us to always be able to accurately translate medical charts into code. 

What were you doing before Nym?

Amit: I was an NLP (natural language processing) research developer at Intel. My team was responsible for adapting state of the art models into Intel's framework, and building NLP services for many other teams at Intel.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face day-to-day?

Amit: Incorporating linguistic understanding into the Nym engine, ensuring proper use of linguistic toolsets and models, adapting linguistic tools and expertise to fit them in the right context within Nym’s engine. Finally, creating new linguistic solutions moving forward to support Nym’s clinical language understanding.

What are you currently working on at Nym?

Amit: We’re working on creating a new groundbreaking method of streamlining implementation processes at our clients, which will maintain our high accuracy levels while cutting down on implementation times. Simply put, we are creating an implementation methodology that will cut down on excessive steps, while maintaining our high understanding accuracy with the use of specially created linguistic tools and methods.

What is the culture at Nym like?

Amit: Amazing! Great people and a large amount of different extracurricular activities which make Nym more than just a place to work. Whether it’s volunteer coding classes, foreign language lessons, company-wide breakfasts, hackathons or even Nerf wars breaking out between meetings. Nym is a company which is made up of people who each approach the work with their own individual skill set and very varied professional backgrounds. This helps the Nym DNA continuously evolve, and which also provides me with the opportunity to branch out and learn things which I never even considered as being a part of my field of interest until I was introduced to them by my colleagues.

What would you say is the coolest thing to have happened at Nym?

Amit: Hackathonym 2021. We dedicated two days to brainstorm and develop new ideas, which we were able to showcase and even pilot into actual solutions which we presented at a special ceremony at the end of the Hackathon. Several of these ideas have already been implemented into the Nym engine. It was amazing to see how we were given the chance to express our creativity into our ideas and really make an impact in a short amount of time, revolutionizing the Nym engine from within.

If you weren’t at Nym, what would you be doing?

Amit: I really enjoy teaching and mentoring. I was always involved in mentoring (as a teenager in the Boy Scouts youth movement, or in the army as a language-course commander, training new soldiers for their position in the army) and even today at Nym I conduct an Arabic enrichment lesson once every 2 weeks. I believe I would have naturally gravitated towards being a counselor of some sort - so I would probably be a teacher or an educator.

What surprised you the most about the work being done at Nym?

Amit: The fact that medical coding allows us to get a much deeper look into the world of medical linguistics, and how there is no doubt that we are in the right space at the right time to take advantage of that. I was surprised to learn that until Nym and even now, medical coding is still something that is done manually, and that the three pillars which I mentioned before can each come into play here, changing the world of medical coding for the better.

What advice or helpful information would you like to leave our readers with? 

Amit: I highly recommend working in a place where multidisciplinarianism is one of the leading values. You can learn a lot from working with people from different fields and backgrounds to your own, and as a result increase your professional growth and advancement exponentially.

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