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August 04, 2014
Big Data: Its Never Been Easier to Seek Out Better Outcomes for Patients
By: Jeff Elton Ph.D.

Sander van ‘t Noordende our Products Group Chief Executive recently posted an insightful piece on his LinkedIn page that highlights the incredible power of combining Electronic Medical Records (EMR) with other data sources to change how we treat patients in a much more personalized and impactful way. The deep insights generated from this full view of the patient experience will change how healthcare is developed and delivered.

Open any business publication today and you will find a story about rumored corporate activity in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors. One of the reasons behind these companies looking at an M&A approach is that the industry is at a fundamental inflection point. The economic reality of rising healthcare costs in most countries coupled with the loss of patent exclusivity of many blockbusters over the past four years is causing governments and private payers to question the need for high reimbursement rates across the globe. This change in the top line coupled with unproductive R&D pipelines and the need for specialist treatments to distinguish outcomes is forcing many companies to change where they focus and how they operate.

So how is this manifesting itself? In some cases, we are seeing newer market entrants working on developing illness prevention, such as a new blood test to detect bowel cancer. For the established players, the pressure is on to maximize the impact that their treatments can have. They need to identify the patient populations where their products can have the optimal effect; they need to be flexible on pricing and supply to reach the target patients; and they need to provide services around their product on an ongoing basis to ensure the efficacy of the product on the disease. In essence, there is much more pressure on Life Sciences companies today to take end-to-end responsibility for the patient outcomes in order to achieve and sustain reimbursement.

The good news is that with the availability of data and analytics today, the task is easier than it has been in the past.

Over the past five years there has been a significant investment in implementing electronic medical records (EMR) for patients. The data has now reached a maturity that makes it highly valuable to pharmaceutical companies because of the impact it can have on patients. When you combine it with other data sources, it starts to create powerful insights into the way patients can be treated to maximize the impact of their treatment.

The real power behind this wave of data is coming from analyzing EMR and other data for R&D and commercial patient care coordination services in order to create a more comprehensive picture of the patient’s treatment and experience to identify care gaps and barriers. Pharma companies can then address these gaps to improve patient access to care and the effectiveness of treatments.

Take, for example, diabetes. The WHO estimates that 347 million people worldwide have diabetes. In the US alone, 25.8 million children and adults or 8.3% of the population have diabetes. It is a leading cause of death and disability and results in a total annual economic cost of $245 billion. The human and economic costs are significant. In 2004, an estimated 3.4 million people died from consequences of high fasting blood sugar and more than 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Current projections have diabetes as the seventh leading cause of death in 2030.

Using a big data analytics platform, companies have started to measure the effectiveness of changes in diabetes management protocols being piloted. This is important because for the first time, it combines big data analysis, clinical informatics, and life sciences expertise. The aim is to better understand patient needs, identify high-risk patients, and evaluate the effectiveness of treatment protocols in improving patient outcomes. Clearly a data-driven approach to develop better management and prevention strategies can have a huge impact.

But it is not just diabetes that can benefit from this insight. Earlier this year, Project Data Sphere was launched by the CEO Roundtable on Cancer’s Life Sciences Consortium to pool results from Phase III cancer trials across all tumor types. Key to these initiatives is the rapid measurement of the effectiveness of solutions so that real-time adjustments can be made to continually improve the outcome. It is also able to inform clinical research based on the gaps and barriers identified in patient needs and populations.

A recent survey Why Pharma Companies Can’t Ignore Patient Services highlighted the opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to ‘become more engaged’ with the patients they treat and better understand how to deliver an improved patient outcome. What we are seeing is the emergence of new combinations of data to create new insights. These can help determine the precise combination of treatments and services that can lead to better patient, provider, and economic outcomes.

This change is the result of the rise of consumerization, the change in global economic reality and the bifurcation of the industry into specialty and generic product bases. This inflection is driving the resultant change in strategy, focus and operations in the global players. The winner is the patient with more targeted therapies, better pricing, more services and more choice.

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