Seven of PM360’s Trailblazer Brand Champion Award Winners, along with a Marketer of the Year finalist joined us just before the awards gala to discuss, “Big Data: Making It Useful in Strategic Decision Making.” PM360’s Common Sense Columnist Bud Bilanich moderated the session. Our celebrants included: Aurora Archer, Global Head of Digital Strategy, AstraZeneca; Brittany Cassin, Product Manager, ThromboGenics; Carlos Dortrait, Group Product Director, Dermatology, Janssen Biotech; Lothar Krinke, PhD, Vice President and General Manager, Deep Brain Stimulation, Medtronic; Kaye Kugler, Senior Product Manager, Uceris, Santarus; Mark Miller, Director of Channel Strategy, Allergan; Laura Polin, Senior Product Manager, Prevnar 13, Pfizer; and Amy West, Associate Director Patient Centric Marketing, Novo Nordisk. Sponsor participants included: Joan Arata, Chief Qologist, Qology, and Erez Lapsker, CEO, MediScripts.

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Bud Bilanich: We’re here to talk about how Big Data is used in pharma. Erez, first tell us a little bit about MediScripts.

Erez Lapsker: In my role as CEO of MediScripts, my goal is to meet the evolving needs of our practitioners and life science partners by developing innovative digital solutions that help them work smart. Our new platform integrates clinical online search and peer collaboration for physicians. We make it easy for practitioners to search for clinical information and get the answers they need, when they need them, from trusted sources, including pharmaceutical content and messaging. The platform can also be accessed on mobile tablets and within Electronic Medical Records (EMRs).

Bud Bilanich: In general, how are all of you are using Big Data with your product?

Laura Polin: Pfizer formed a multi-channel marketing team. They do everything from closed loop messaging with materials online, different initiatives we’re working on, and capture all of that data on the website: Where people visit, how long they stay and how they’re rating messages. From our brand side, our sales force throughout Prevnar, and all of Pfizer, work on a computer-based platform. So they’re able to get real-time feedback to us on the brand team for all customers.

We also started moving into an EMR space—but right now that space is difficult. There are so many. They’re all so different. Even one hospital system might use an EMR system, but five different versions of it between their in-patient and out-patient operations.

Brittany Cassin: There are opportunities in EMR systems in terms of access and reimbursement. One of the opportunities ThromboGenics sees is an ability to ensure that whatever support services we offer—be it patient assistance programs or benefit verification programs—are kept top of mind.

I’m not sure how much insight everyone has into how benefit verifications operate with, let’s say, call centers. You would think that they’re so advanced—they’re not. One of the advantages we do have: In the future, we’ll tap into EMR systems to communicate with our call centers to preserve the accuracy of patient data.

Mark Miller: I’m also responsible for Health Information Technology, including EMRs. It couldn’t be more of a hot topic in our industry now too. I think we’re one of the only companies that actually has account managers calling on the top five EMR organizations because we want a touch point with this important customer.

We’re very much interested in the doctors’ experience. The challenge today is that EMR companies look at us as a stranger because their customer is really the physician and that physician’s experience. There’s an evolution going on, but the industry is lagging behind if you think of all the capabilities that are available with Big Data and the gathering of information.

Laura Polin: And then, a year from now, there could be four or five EMR systems accounting for 80% to 85% of all EMRs. That will be a lot easier. Now, it’s a mad rush to get on board due to all the incentive programs offered. That’s why we’re starting small with the regional pilots we’re doing with IDNs. They want Pfizer’s partnership whether it’s for educating patients, guidelines for physicians or the help of Meaningful Use. But starting with those partnerships on a small level is what’s going to get us to the place—two or three years out—when there aren’t so many EMR systems, it’s more streamlined and there’s an algorithm for how we’re going to do things.

Bud Bilanich: There is tremendous potential with EMRs. But due to fragmentation, or the licensing, or the fact that docs use them, they pick and choose what they like to use out of it.

Joan Arata: And you layer that with the HIPAA compliance issues and what data can you pull? Who’s going to package that data so what you receive is HIPAA compliant?

Mark Miller: Exactly. And there’s a big myth, too. Some think there’s a silver bullet out there—some way to solve this problem overnight.

Brittany Cassin: Yes. We often say, here’s the new technology or there’s something innovative. And everyone kind of piggybacks on it thinking of it as that silver bullet. One of the things I tell myself is that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I think it’s striking that balance.

Bud Bilanich: The silver bullet is an interesting term, but the issues are much more complicated. I hear many people say that digital is difficult to measure in terms of ROI.

Erez Lapsker: Yes. However, our print solutions have a proven history of ROI—so now we are dedicated to translating this impact to our digital solution so it can be a cost-effective tool for our partners.

Aurora Archer: I spent more than 20 years of my career not growing up in pharma, but in the technology industry. I sort of chuckle when we say we can’t measure digital. In 2014, absolutely we can measure digital. We can get it down to this: How much uplift in your scrip is created by digital channels versus traditional channels?

Bud Bilanich: Carlos, can you tell us how or if you are using Big Data at Janssen?

Carlos Dortrait: We’ve been mining Big Data for the past couple of years to dial into insights to both answer key business questions and find insights we’re missing, specifically on the HCP side, to understand the key triggers that motivate our prescribers. On the consumer side, the big challenge is being outspent by our competitors. So our ability to leverage Big Data to drive the best return on investment has been our focus and we’ve shown some wins. Right now, we are leveraging a lot of external partners to help us.

Bud Bilanich: What’s going on with Big Data at Medtronic, Lothar?

Lothar Krinke, PhD: At Medtronic, we have experience with designing implantable sensors and developing algorithms that interpret certain electrophysiological parameters and manage data. This allows for some physicians to use data to better monitor their patients. What may be next is linking this data directly to health outcomes and communicating this information to the healthcare provider or the patient. We believe that this will lead to better patient care and lower healthcare costs.

For example, in Medtronic’s Neuromodulation business unit, one of our spinal cord stimulators for pain contains motion sensor technology that senses a patient’s body position, while the software automatically adjusts the level of stimulation needed for that specific position. This neurostimulator also records and stores the frequency of posture changes, providing feedback to clinicians to help them understand how a patient’s individual stimulation needs are changing over time. I believe that this will enable the physician to also gain important information about how a patient’s quality of life is improved.

Bud Bilanich: Let’s talk about how Big Data can be used to “customize” the patient experience and make it more personal to the individual—finding out what their interests are, how they are doing with their condition and offering them information they can access via different channels, such as their phones or even a Fitbit or similar device—there is certainly a lot of talk about that. So it’s key with all of you to be able to collect that data. And then do you use that data to create a community?

Kaye Kugler: At Santarus, we are doing just that but we’re doing it in a way to capture data and figure out how you continue to evolve marketing based on what you know. On the patient side, we’re in the very early stages of developing a database, so we have been partnering with advocacy groups to build our patient database.

Mark Miller: We use a platform at Allergan that I created and we are now doing an overhaul, trying to gather more information and make it more analytic so we know who is on the site, for how long and what they download, and then push out maybe SMS texting.

But, we can’t gather everything and not react to patient concerns or challenges with our product. So we shut the door to receiving information. We could do much more if we could get over the hurdle of compliance and HIPAA.

Bud Bilanich: It seems that some of the challenges with Big Data are the same challenges you have in pharma marketing. It’s all the compliance issues and such. It’s not like it’s new and different. An article that talked about Big Data said call centers were using voice recognition software that transcribes complaints. Obviously you can’t do that because once you get a complaint, it’s an adverse effect. You have to report that complaint and investigate it.

Aurora Archer: And I think that’s one of the biggest opportunities that we’re trying to uncap, this notion that data is about structured and unstructured data. But here’s the challenge: We have to evolve the IT infrastructure so that we can rebuild it in the form of what will be the 21st or 22nd century, where it’s not about the bits and the Rx. It’s about everything that’s happening, structured and unstructured, so that you can learn, you can predict, and you can create relevance and value. That’s how you win.

Bud Bilanich: When you’re dealing with Big Data, then, is it still in the IT department and are marketers trying to access it? Or are marketers taking the lead in figuring out the data that needs collection and then how is it analyzed? I hear you saying it can’t just be an IT piece.

Aurora Archer: It can’t. I am very clear that I cannot do my job effectively without a strong IT partner. But that’s a shift because most IT organizations within pharma have not worked as business enablers.

Bud Bilanich: Carlos, what are you doing in this regard?

Carlos Dortrait: Marketing takes the lead in identifying the key business questions, but it’s a collaborative cross-functional effort to mine data for the answers.

As for IT, in the past, this group was mostly project focused on the website or executing the next campaign. As a result, we sought strategic support from outside the organization.

Our organization has worked hard at closing the gap by strengthening our IT support and building a Digital Center of Excellence. Our internal strategic capabilities have improved significantly. Nevertheless, we still depend on external partners to mine our data and help answer key business questions.

Bud Bilanich: So I’m going to go to the big companies here: Laura, Mark, where are you folks going?

Laura Polin: What Carlos said is exactly what Pfizer is doing. If you look at our IT side of the house, we are almost exclusively outsourcing so that we shift those individuals to become strategic partners rather than people who are project focused. It’s shifting, but we have a long way to go with that.

Bud Bilanich: It’s interesting that companies are finding third-party partners to help with data analysis rather than looking to IT.

Mark Miller: At the same time, every year we have to re-justify the existence of the program. Why do we put money into this program if it doesn’t generate any sales? We want to sell a product, but we want to help patients too.

Amy West: Yes, we do. Many people are always going to take care of themselves. But there’s also a big number of people, that, with just a little support or information, can get on that right path. Then you have an opportunity to help and can do it in the most beneficial way possible for the patient and for the business.

Aurora Archer: There’s something I like to say which is, “He who cares will win.” And what’s shifting in other industries—going beyond that direct correlation of that sale and creating relevance, value and service.

Bud Bilanich: What Amy just said is very interesting. You’re talking about finding those people we can help the most—not necessarily the people who are always going to take care of themselves. That’s a basic Internet marketing idea. But it’s kind of revolutionary for pharma.

Amy West: We forget about it. One of the things we struggle with is a lot of information coming from different dashboard sources and then the question of how we pull it all together.

Kaye Kugler: I agree—so it’s key to partner closely with IT, analytics and market research to identify and communicate with the right people. Data needs go to those who can understand and interpret it correctly. If you interpret it incorrectly, you could go down a path you don’t want to go.

Bud Bilanich: That makes sense to validate data. And it’s always about who interprets which data.

Mark Miller: You know I’ll add one thing. An article about Big Data in The Wall Street Journal talked about how to translate data so that people could look at numbers and color and get it. They talked about five or six different companies that translate all this information, and it was about what you could do with colors and what you could do with different graphs to create something that a marketer can understand.

We don’t understand data as it comes in. And IT doesn’t understand marketing. But the translation can be captured through these graphs and charts.

Aurora Archer: Yes, it’s the visualization of data. It’s a way in which you can get people to look at really complex information in a very simple, easy to understand way.

Bud Bilanich: Proprietary information is a huge issue in the pharma industry. And people see it as a competitive advantage. I think Aurora was earlier advocating almost a paradigm shift in that sharing is better than keeping both ends apart.

Aurora Archer: Aren’t we really here to help people? I understand that with access to information comes huge responsibility. There’s an opportunity for us to learn from other industries that are also holding a significant amount of information. If you step back, we are huge information companies.

Bud Bilanich: How about the folks from MediScripts—what’s your take on all this? How can you help? And how does your new product tie into some of this?

Joan Arata: Our product can be delivered one of two ways right now. The technology can deliver rich contact and media to physicians through their EMR. Within a cloud-based EMR, it is delivered through our widget. We also developed a portal. All the physicians on our system now are there through the portal. And we also have our first EMR partner.

Because we have those two ways to distribute, we will have very different types of information about the users. What are they looking for? What do physicians know? What don’t they know? How are they getting their answers? Are they getting their answers from authoritative content?

So far, we created upwards of eight or nine million pieces of content that we put into an award-winning search engine. Then we layered the social network on top of it, which makes it a robust information resource because it’s the information busy, practicing physicians are seeking.

Bud Bilanich: How can some of these folks better understand this information you’re collecting?

Joan Arata: We know—and literature documents—that physicians have on average six to eight clinical questions every week from their normal interactions with patients. So the question is up until now, how are they getting that information?

The number one place physicians go is Google, just like we all do. But when they do, they get 5.2 million responses in .0008 seconds. What are they going to do with that? It’s not bad information, but it’s not clinical information.

Generally, the first page is consumer-facing information, not clinical content. So it’s fascinating to watch clinical social discussions that physicians know only other physicians are accessing—they feel more open to discussions. Then, of course there is demographic information, which we will also collect about our users.

A couple of months ago, a physician in Connecticut started a discussion saying she was getting nervous about Lyme season due to a shortage of doxycycline. Well, a physician in Texas said there had been shortages of doxycycline too, but it was rectified; however, now the problem was that it was so expensive. A physician in Ohio chimed in and said there was never any shortage there. This is really amazing info, allowing us to see geographical differences. It is very rich with good data and opportunities for obtaining data.

Bud Bilanich: And to me, that’s the promise of Big Data: Figuring out ways that you can use it within a context.

Joan Arata: Lothar, since you represent your industry here today, I’m just curious if the scrutiny is as heavy on medical devices and the data collected? Is it equal?

Lothar Krinke, PhD: It is very important to make sure that patient privacy issues are considered and that we comply with the regulations protecting patient’s health records. The data that our devices collect are used by healthcare professionals and patients to improve care.

Bud Bilanich: Everyone wants good data, but data is good only if we can find some way to analyze it and present it in an easy to understand way.

Amy West: And in a trustworthy way. I think there’s a fine line between people, physicians, patients—and somebody that feels like big brother is watching. If you use that data to deliver a value, it’s different. But the minute people feel, “How do you know that about me?” it becomes invasive and a problem. You have to use it in a way that feels comfortable to people.

Carlos Dortrait: I think there’s a lot of sensitivity from everyone in the room regarding trustworthiness. And even though we’re generally a conservative industry, I don’t think that’s a barrier to getting the data that we need. At times, marketers are not being specific enough about the information we’re asking customers for and the intended use of the information. The ambiguity results in our inability to use the data because we are not providing the right disclaimers and transparency. The clearer we (marketers) can be in communicating to our regulators and our legal departments the intended use of the information being requested, the better guidance and disclaimers will be crafted that will enable us to leverage the data.

I think it gets easier when you have the right strategy in place and people have bought into it. Also, partner with the proper people to solve problems. I think the clearer that we can be in building that, the better we are and the better our organizations will rally behind what we’re trying to do.

PM360’s Brand Champion Circle of Excellence was sponsored by MediScripts.

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