Commentary

Right Data Not Big Data

Healthcare is transforming rapidly. While the fundamental premise hasn’t changed over time – better health outcomes with a reduced financial burden – the breadth, relevance and availability of health and wellness data has made the goal much more achievable, at least theoretically. So there is good reason for major healthcare stakeholders to become enamored with the promise of Big Data. 

All well and good ‘til you realize that the bottleneck to realizing the potential of big data is not the availability of data, it’s your ability to harness and deploy its power. 

The opportunities to generate even more data about personal vital signs, health activities and digital interactions seem endless nowadays. CES this year was dominated by wearable devices with the ability to monitor pretty much every bodily function adding to the pool and diversity of available data in the health and wellness space. Electronic Medical Record (EMR) adoption is reaching its zenith and digital interaction data is at an all-time high … and there is and will be even more data to explore.

There is obviously great value hidden in this data, as long as you have the mechanisms in place to harness its power. Most healthcare organizations still struggle with collecting, integrating, warehousing, analyzing and actioning “small” data (e.g., basic sales and marketing interactions data), let alone have the ability to handle the sheer volume of Big Data. And that’s not even half of the challenge; the wide diversity of data available today adds a layer of complexity that most legacy data warehouses and data management people, systems and processes will find impossible to handle. 

So what do you do as a savvy healthcare leader, marketer or analyst while your organization sets about the arduous, expensive and time-consuming task of exploring its usual options of building in-house or outsourcing, selecting a solution, dealing with the technology issues … and so on? 

Set clear goals and prioritize

Data overload can easily lead to analysis paralysis. Without a clear purpose, every new source of data will seem enticing and valuable and lead to unguided exploration. You must prioritize your goals and identify data that are relevant to your needs. Focus on the initiatives that are mission critical for the organization. Whether your challenge is business-, brand-, sales-, marketing-, channel/media- or customer-focused, you must prioritize and focus on the Right Data. And the most pertinent data for healthcare right now is the health outcomes data, which has the potential to establish best practices and benchmarks in disease management. Not just drug treatment, but the optimal combination of medicine, behavioral modification and content, tools and resources that lead to better health outcomes, while reducing the financial burden on the system. 

Optimize your data-warehousing and processing

Restricting your data requirements to what’s necessary reduces the burden on your aging data warehouse and Business Intelligence processes. You may still have to extract, reformat and integrate data into an advanced analytics tool, but at least you will have an analytics database ready for analysis. If internal bottlenecks cannot be surpassed, you can always outsource. You will need a vendor with contemporary business and marketing acumen not just analytics tools and skills. 

Focus on insight distribution not report dissemination

More often than not even the best analyses culminate in a trend report for “someone else” to decipher. Your focus must shift from “what it is” to “what it means” – the insight that helps you make a better decision no matter what your business or marketing challenge. And this relates back to the previous point; the right internal team or the right vendor can make the Right Data actionable. 

Most importantly, readjust mindsets and behavior

Data driven decision-making is a mindset; healthcare decision-makers and marketers must embrace this mindset or risk becoming irrelevant. Accountability for decisions and the need for results will ensure that good data habits start to replace old paradigms. 

The Health Sector at large and the Pharmaceutical industry, in particular, must go beyond the basics; the goal must shift from sales and marketing to reconceiving their fundamental value propositions around better health outcomes not just scientific drug differentiation. Big Data has the potential to ease this daunting challenge, but the industry at large must avoid getting caught in the headlights or biting off more than it can chew … it must prioritize the most critical imperatives, focus on the Right Data and create an insight-driven culture to ensure continued relevance in this rapidly transforming industry.

2 comments about "Right Data Not Big Data".
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  1. Monica Hahn from Hahn Solo, LLC, February 14, 2014 at 11:05 a.m.

    Agreed. More importantly, from the customer perspective, the "Right Data" means using data in a way that I can see how it benefits ME. Make sure I don't have to fill out more forms every time I come in, repeating information I've already provided. Make sure that when I move from one appointment/provider to the next, everyone is up to speed on my conditions, my previous treatments & results, & my concerns. Don't use it as an excuse to not spend adequate time with me, use it as an opportunity to engage me in a deeper relationship. Mayo Clinic does it better than anyone I've seen so far.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 14, 2014 at 1:49 p.m.

    Oops. Wrong data applied the wrong way. Who is responsible ?

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