The healthcare industry in the U.S. and beyond has been buffeted by trends like the shift to value-based care, technological innovations that broaden treatment choices and an increasing focus on individual patients. Like other life sciences sector businesses, pharma companies are eager to stay ahead of the curve, and that will require new thinking about how to integrate and manage data. Access to integrated, high-quality, easily accessible data will be the key to success in the years ahead.
Optimizing data means finding a way to break down data silos, integrate and harmonize information from disparate sources (and in different formats) and providing secure, compliant access to authorized staff. But while it’s an important first step, it won’t be enough for pharma companies to focus exclusively on breaking down data silos within their own organizations — they’ll have to also be able to take in data from many different sources and integrate and manage it effectively.
Where will data access matter the most? There are several trends driving changes within the pharma sector that will make access to information from external sources critical for companies that are looking for a competitive advantage. Here are some of the key areas where new data will be generated and the data integration and management challenges pharma companies will likely face:
Payer reimbursement data
Value-based care is a dominant trend in the insurance industry. Payers are looking for treatments that improve patient outcomes and lower costs. They are conducting careful analysis of value in terms of the price of treatment and the benefits delivered across patient populations. That means the pressure is on for life sciences organizations to make a solid business case for their products. They’ll need to demonstrate that their products are efficacious, which means they’ll require data on treatment effectiveness from multiple parties, including clinicians, regulators and researchers.
Data streams from clinical trials (including those conducted by Clinical Research Organizations — CROs) will be critical in demonstrating drug efficacy. Data from pharmacies and prescribing physicians can also be pivotal in building a business case for a specific treatment regimen. Pharma companies must be able to ingest and translate this information to demonstrate value.
In addition to the patient information they receive via third-party sources like clinicians and pharmacies, pharma companies are increasingly gaining access to data via engaged patients, who are taking an active role in their care. Social media can be a rich source of data to identify patient sentiment, so pharma companies are accessing tools that allow them to gather and interpret this data.
Another source of data on patients is coming from patient advocacy groups like the American Cancer Society, the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and other voluntary health agencies recognized by the National Health Council. Pharma companies are partnering with these organizations, gaining access to valuable data from patient registries. This data also has to be integrated and managed to maximize the value of patient data.
Pharma companies are working with academic institutions and medical research centers in an open innovation model, collaborating to discover new treatments and advance research projects. Such partnerships can significantly influence the development of new medications and treatments, but to fully realize the promise of open innovation, partners must be able to share data.
A similar dynamic is at play in outcomes-based contracting scenarios, in which pharma manufacturers agree to demonstrate the value of their products in terms of patient outcomes. This requires copious documentation of a drug’s performance, including data on patients that is stored in a variety of repositories and in numerous formats — more data that must be integrated and managed.
Bringing data together
Whether working with payers to successfully manage the shift to a value-based system, collaborating with patients and their advocates to enhance care or interacting with new partners to explore advanced treatment options, pharma companies are using data from a broader array of sources than ever before. The information embedded in electronic medical records, public health repositories, social media platforms, financial and sales records, research findings and more can shed new light on treatment needs and suggest promising avenues for exploration.
But with those opportunities come the new challenges of an increasingly complex data ecosystem. The data pharma companies need is frequently cached in offsite silos or submitted in formats that can’t be readily integrated into the pharma company’s own data repository. Rather than devoting the valuable time and expertise of in-house data and IT professionals to cleaning up, harmonizing and securing data from disparate sources, pharma companies should consider outsourcing those tasks so they can focus on their core missions: improving patient outcomes and generating shareholder value.