Applying big data analytics to improve patient-centric care
Sumit Prasad, Manager, Mu Sigma
7 January 2015
The changing economic, regulatory, technological and healthcare
environment has given rise to a strategic shift from product and
physician-centric strategies to a ‘patient centric’ approach,
reflecting how healthcare decision-making has changed in recent
In a recent report, Thomson Reuters highlighted that in the
pharmaceutical sector, after drug
discovery and market knowledge, understanding the patient better is
set to be the next big opportunity for big data analytics.
Patients are no longer just passive players in the healthcare
system. They are becoming more knowledgeable about their conditions
and the medical options available to them, and are taking greater
control of their own treatment. This process of empowerment has led
to patients developing their own brand and product preferences, and
presents pharmaceutical companies with a new audience to cater for.
In order to achieve a high level of patient centricity,
understanding patients’ needs is fundamental, and this can only be
achieved by ‘deep-diving’ into ever-growing amounts of patient data.
The importance of patient centricity
Patient centricity focuses on the understanding of patients’
needs in the context of the state of their condition and experiences
within the healthcare system. This means putting the patient at the
heart of every business decision in order to develop and provide
solutions based on an in-depth, all-round knowledge of the patient.
To implement a truly patient-centric model, it is crucial to
understand the complex journey through the healthcare system and
explore how patients’ experiences at each stage of this journey can
be enhanced. Making this concept a reality is not as hard as it may
sound. Every patient interaction generates reams of structured and
With the right combination of big data tools,
skills and platforms, pharmaceutical companies can harness this data
and generate actionable insights. In turn, these will go a long ways
towards identifying patient preferences and formulating future
Who are the beneficiaries?
Provider networks are one of the biggest and best sources
for capturing and collating large volumes of healthcare data. The
information captured ranges from structured data around patient
schedules, billing, prescriptions and hospital records to
unstructured information from health monitoring equipment, medical
transcripts and customer feedback. Adding to this is an
ever-increasing flow of social media data as patients increasingly
share experiences of their conditions, treatment or views on
Gathering patient insights and using them across various
functions, such as R&D, the supply chain, medical affairs and
commercial functions, is a powerful way to make business decisions.
All stakeholders stand to gain from this approach: payers can apply
the insights to reduce costs, care providers can improve service
quality by addressing previously hidden issues, and pharmaceutical
companies stand to gain by increasing revenues.
Needless to say, all these processes need to adhere to the Data
Protection Act and ensure patient privacy and data is carefully
Role of pharmaceutical companies in paving the way
Collaboration with all stakeholders is critical in order to find
different ways to engage patients on their journey.
Strictly speaking, the patient has no need to interact directly
with a pharmaceutical company. Therefore pharma firms first need to
grasp what will get patients to do so, and then find creative ways
to engage them — by offering a value-add over what they get from
their doctor or pharmacy.
In tactical terms, this could be a specialist online forum, where
patients get access to international experts on their condition, or
setting up a Facebook page so patients can exchange experiences or
organise meet-ups with fellow sufferers.
To grow into this new role within the healthcare system,
pharmaceutical companies need to overcome established mindsets and
cultural barriers, and move away from their physician and brand
focused business models of old.
However, patient centricity is not about pharma firms taking away
from the healthcare system, but complementing it by enhancing
patients’ lives with their condition. Ultimately, the result of any
patient-centric strategy has to be an improved patient experience
and better health outcomes, which will help the pharmaceutical
company differentiate its own offerings against those of
Sumit Prasad, Manager, Mu Sigma
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