Health IT

Why bigger isn’t always better when it comes to big data in healthcare

There’s no doubt that big data is significantly impacting healthcare. Throughout the continuum of care, from hospitals to payers to patients to product providers, there continues to be a demand to create and store increasing amounts of digital data to strengthen the decision making process surrounding everything from operational performance to treatment types. Why is […]

There’s no doubt that big data is significantly impacting healthcare. Throughout the continuum of care, from hospitals to payers to patients to product providers, there continues to be a demand to create and store increasing amounts of digital data to strengthen the decision making process surrounding everything from operational performance to treatment types.

Why is the healthcare industry so data hungry? Well, it offers the distinct advantage of being able to segment customers in a way that ultimately provides a better understanding of how certain populations behave. In turn, companies are able to provide more precisely tailored products and services that put them a step ahead of their competitors.

While healthcare hangs its hat on big data to drive improved performance in all aspects of its business, it is important to keep in mind that the conclusions resulting from the crunching of cast data repositories might not always be the best way to arrive at even greater segmentation or service. This is particularly true within the pharmaceutical industry.

Big Data, Old Paradigm

A key challenge with big data is that it uses an old-fashioned paradigm that mandates dealing with large groups rather than individuals. For years macro data has been used and sifted through to identify and extract certain patterns, effectively chopping the data down into smaller and more manageable information that can direct a pharmaceutical company’s communications strategy.

When it comes to individualization, this big data approach misses the mark. In effect, this approach takes data from individuals, squashes it together into one big picture and then slices that picture up for various uses. But why do this if it is possible to easily gain access to individual preferences? The current process sidesteps the capacity to be really personal, and is, therefore, less relevant. And with new technology available to deliver this individual insight, the process of accruing targeted data is growing increasingly seamless. So why deal with groups and their data at all when it is possible to interface and collect more meaningful data at the individual level?

The Smaller, The Better

The reason companies need – and focus on – the “big” data is because they don’t have readily available access to data derived from one-on-one use. But the pharmaceutical industry actually has this – and it is important for the industry to take advantage of this to help medical professionals drive stronger outcomes.

Unlike many other businesses and industries, the pharmaceutical industry is allowed the unique opportunity to frequently meet one-on-one, face-to-face with its customers multiple times throughout the year in most markets. And while the Sunshine Act has limited the ways in which the pharmaceutical industry can engage with doctors, the industry is still able to have deep and meaningful exchanges that produce invaluable insights and don’t require the formalities or costs associated with focus groups and surveys to arrive at more effective sales strategies and treatments.

Most recently, because of technological advancements, the in-person exchanges between pharmaceutical and medical professionals have been maximized to their fullest potential for information sharing and gathering. Prior to this, the industry historically loaded reps with paper-based information, and they would come home empty due to a lack of understanding on how to optimally interact with medical professionals using these printed tools. Unable to create meaningful dialogue or make a difference for medical professionals or the patients they serve, pharmaceutical representatives were allowing for crucial communication, messages and needs – or customized data – to get lost in the static that pushing information naturally establishes. As a result, opportunities for much stronger and compelling marketing and sales results were missed. But it no longer needs to be this way.

Marketers are shifting from being mere transporters of messages to actually fostering behavior change. Previously, marketers and their sales reps were measured based on campaign delivery – thus they weren’t focused on engaging healthcare professionals on their particular needs and concerns. So why would healthcare professionals care what the reps had to say in a field of constant time limitations? Now, thanks to technological innovations, the parameters are changing, and reps can be empowered to deliver true service in a new individualized data scheme.

New digital technology exists that allows the pharmaceutical industry to understand each healthcare professional’s personal needs and interests, keep track of it, and respond accordingly. There is no longer a need to force-fit customers into a group. As a result, medical professionals are provided with the highly relevant information they need to strengthen their practice and the level of care they can provide to their patients.

Now it can truly be about the pull, not the push. Marketing messages are no longer a big gun that fires out messages, but rather a pipeline that runs straight to each medical professional, providing the content they and their patients personally need. It’s a mosaic of individualized data that is perfectly tailored to them, rather than a picture of big data they just might fit into. In essence, each medical professional now receives a personalized experience – only interacting with the content that they find relevant and interesting – while marketers work with a scalable system that is easily updated, improved and expanded.

This more customized and technological-based approach affects behavior change – it pays attention each time healthcare professionals engage with communications. The pharmaceutical industry can now know if a message has been delivered and what actually interests customers. This allows for marketers to continually improve the content they are streaming to medical professionals and engage on a local level – empowering sales reps and others interacting directly with doctors to meet the individual and unique needs of the clinicians and their patients.

Today’s technology marries the use of both wide-reaching and targeted, customized data to push pharmaceutical marketers and sales teams past the boundaries that once existed within the traditional sales and marketing model to a message delivery business that fosters true and meaningful engagement between them and medical professionals. And it makes what was previously impossible not just possible, but easy to achieve.

The next step is gearing pharmaceutical reps into play. As an industry, we are in the best position to focus on the individual and have the tools to do so. My advice when it comes to data and the pharmaceutical industry? Go small – but think big.

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