Business Intelligence & Big Data: Are You Drowning or Surfing?

September 27, 2018
Jonathan Foster, Practice Leader for IQVIA Technologies, APAC

First in a three-part series on business functions that will most benefit from new technology

This is the dawn of what I believe will be a Golden Age of technology in the life sciences.  After years of talk, biopharmaceutical and healthcare companies are sprinting to adopt information technology solutions to address long-standing challenges. 

In a recent IQVIA survey of more than 100 senior Asia Pacific life-science leaders, 45 percent of respondents cited technology advancement as their No. 1 reason healthcare will transform over the next three to five years.  Only “public funding cost containment” drew more votes, with 48 percent. 

Industry pressures are forcing this change: regulatory push-back on drug prices; soaring R&D costs; fewer “blockbuster” drugs and more targeted specialty therapies, to name a few.  This has created a perfect storm that requires innovative approaches to solve intractable problems.   Fortunately, technology is providing multiple opportunities to mitigate these challenges.

In this blog I’ll look at business intelligence (BI) – the first of three business functions that survey respondents said will most benefit from tech innovation.  My next two blogs will address the other two, R&D and marketing, respectively.

The proliferation of data, be it from traditional market measurement databases, electronic medical record systems, genetic databases, clinical trials or social media, is both an opportunity and a challenge.  Payers, providers and patients are hungry for evidence-based, real-world insights to demonstrate the value of therapies; however, this can only be achieved by proper processing, management and interpretation of the vast amounts of data available.

IQVIA has one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of curated healthcare information in the world – about 30 petabytes of proprietary data sourced from more than 120,000 data suppliers.  Yet we are only one part of this vast global healthcare data landscape.  Whatever goal a BI solution is designed to support, don’t underestimate the challenges of data complexity.

Not all data sources are equal.  Each must be carefully examined for anomalies and quality gaps.  This is especially true in Asia Pacific, where data sources tend to be more fragmented and less mature than in the West.  Time spent at the beginning to understand the sources’ qualities and plan a data strategy will pay off in a robust and scalable data repository.  This requires a deep understanding of how to use and interpret available data, both from a business as well as a technical point of view.

At its heart, this data strategy should have as a goal to reduce siloes and create the elusive ‘Single Version of the Truth’, thus providing a robust and scalable data platform capable of supporting multiple interrelated business projects.

Achieving this elusive single version of the truth can be facilitated by streamlining data onboarding processes; automating data provisioning; and managing reference or master data in one place and with common processes.  This is never a one-time activity – we have seen numerous initiatives go off the rails because of lax ongoing processes and governance.  Data stewardship and change management processes may not always be the first elements to appear on a plan, but in our experience they often are the difference between success and failure.

Just managing vast amounts of data is not enough.  Realizing its full value requires all forms of artificial intelligence and analytics capabilities.  Decision-makers want to see around corners and spot opportunities before the competition. They are no longer satisfied with lagging (historical) key performance indicators – that’s like driving a car forward by looking in the rear-view mirror.

Few companies have reached this advanced stage; most are still grappling with more fundamental issues.  However, technology is no longer the main inhibitor.  The winners will be companies that can define a holistic information management program; align on carefully selected strategic objectives; manage organizational change; and choose the right information partner to guide them on their journey.

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