Managing data is a lot like conducting an orchestra. Many diverse parts combine to create a symphony, and data analysts are the conductors responsible for achieving it. They do this by harmonizing multiple data points into a single repository, and then extracting insights thoughtfully. Data teams, i.e., data engineers and data analysts, are the core problem solvers who provide the right information at the right time to assist in empowering the C-suite. The resulting insights enable pharmaceutical business executives to plan effectively for the future and course correct for their organizations.
Defining the Data Harmonization Challenge
Data can be extremely powerful. The volume of data has burgeoned over the past decade, presenting both unique challenges and enormous potential for life science companies to generate valuable insights that can enable major healthcare advancements. Data is the key to improving the speed and agility of clinical research— and ultimately uncovering breakthrough treatments and therapies. However, much of this data currently languishes in company silos, and integrating these assets is a significant problem pharmaceutical companies face.
Furthermore, managing information on a global scale while balancing different countries’ regulations and restrictions is a daunting task. Executives that are able to do so have a better view of their operations and can make informed decisions on how best to achieve goals, such as commercializing a new therapy or conducting a clinical trial. Two approaches exist for solving these issues: the challenge lies in finding a middle ground.
Connecting Opposite Ends of the Spectrum
The first approach to harmonization is to clean and organize all the data before starting to generate insights. This involves building a consolidated, organized data structure with governance, quality metrics, stewardship and more to develop business and end-user trust. However, this approach can take considerable time to execute, making it impractical for immediate value generation in the decision-making process.
The second option is to move quickly, using the data in real-time or speeding up the organization process as the market did during the COVID-19 pandemic. This fast-moving approach avoids waiting years to get the data ready for insight generation, but it can compromise data integrity. Ideally, we must move from these two opposite ends of the spectrum to the center. Pharmaceutical companies must find a path that is not so rigid that the business cannot move forward while maintaining compliance without compromising security, legislative boundaries or putting data assets at risk.
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Data teams must partner with internal stakeholders and executives to determine their intent for the information. This begins with identifying what the data can do and why they need this intelligence before considering how they will achieve it.
Taking an ‘Intent’ Approach to Insights
Before deploying data across the company with a goal of generating broader insights, data analysts should start by asking what the business is trying to solve and how the solution will drive innovation for maximum impact, then applying relevant data harmonization principles to generate practical insights.
These questions and the resulting answers help them understand the prospective business impact and the rationale behind generating and collecting the data. This strategy filters out some noise and enables analysts to focus on delivering the insights they need. It minimizes the time, effort, and cost to propagate and treat the data and maximizes its value.
Using Software to Accelerate the Process
Appropriate software enables data teams to use pre-built connectors to pull real-world evidence and data from applications, such as CRM programs, marketing software and social media channels. This function integrates pre-ready, pre-curated first-, second- and third-party data into the system and accelerates the generation of analytics and insights. The software can then send the insights back to end-user applications accessible by customers, representatives and clinical trial administrators for implementation. However, caution should be taken when selecting software based on hype and capabilities. Software should be deployed into the ecosystem with a clear understanding of how it will solve business problems, integrate with other products in the ecosystem and operationalize the system.
Given today’s rapidly evolving, dynamic healthcare and life science ecosystem, positive outcomes rely on a flawless overall data life cycle to maximize the end-user and patient experience. Data indicates that the average engagement for a prescriber is roughly 19 minutes overall. This means that in just 19 minutes, commercial teams must deliver the exact right messaging in the correct context. Ensuring that messaging resonates with prescribers in a meaningful way requires software that extracts actionable insights from the data at hand.
Looking Ahead to an Exciting Future
Pharmaceutical companies now have a much greater understanding of the power of data. This has led to more structure and better organization in data collection, storage and management. Their focus has now shifted to harmonizing data and generating insights, and technological innovations are making it easier to try new tactics. For example, data analysts now have the tools to perform advanced tasks such as distributed processing, high-volume processing, and graph technology. These options represent exciting opportunities for analysts to produce excellent new insights for end users.
In sum, data harmonization is part science and part art, and data analysts are the conductors who pull it all together to make the beautiful music happen.
Avinob Roy is vice president & general manager of product offerings at IQVIA. Durham, N.C.-based IQVIA, formerly Quintiles and IMS Health, Inc., is an American multinational company serving the combined industries of health information technology and clinical research.
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