Data. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing if you can’t analyze it—and a whole hell of a lot if you can.

“Marketing campaigns produce tremendous amounts of data, but they’re often underutilized,” explains Bryan O’Malley, Head of Technology and Performance Innovation, Fingerpaint. “Media drivers and email programs are often analyzed independently of web engagement. Sales and marketing activities end up in silos, while prescriptions get reported in the aggregate without attributing the individual scripts back to the campaign touchpoints that sparked them.”

Miriam Paramore, President, OptimizeRx, puts it another way: “We are drowning in data but starved for actionable information.” Her solution: platforms that consolidate and organize data around patients.

“Patients create ‘health data exhaust’ on a regular basis,” Paramore says. “Whether through wearable devices, patient support apps, online health forms, information flowing into and out of the EHR, and at the pharmacy. The data follows the patient and—when aggregated—that data can contextualize and trigger relevant messaging delivered back to the patient and provider. Every point in the patient experience is an opportunity for patients to have a digital conversation with the life sciences industry about their health through their data.”

But consolidation of data shouldn’t just be limited to patient information. O’Malley suggests analysis that spans a marketer’s entire omnichannel campaign.

“It’s no longer enough to report on base metrics, such as clicks and impressions, when we can tie engagements directly to Rx behavior. You need deep attribution modeling that actually measures performance,” O’Malley says. “Once that happens, the next big opportunity comes from predictive analytics. By leveraging the power of cloud computing and advanced machine learning algorithms, we can begin to predict future events, such as which physicians are most likely to begin trialing. Predictive analytics is the key to unlocking the power of your data!”

The Next Frontier in Analytics

With more data and advancements in how to analyze it, marketers are entering a world filled with possibilities. For Justin Chase, EVP/Head, Innovation & Media, Intouch Group, no opportunity is bigger than Auto Content Recognition (ACR).

“As the TV landscape becomes increasingly fragmented with each additional streaming platform, it becomes harder to connect the dots on what your audience is watching,” Chase explains. “To solve for this, you have ACR data which can be a great way of serving ads to those previously unexposed on linear. The core promise of ACR is better understanding of reach and frequency, more insight into segmentation, and ultimately deduplicated incremental reach. In addition, ACR allows for competitive conquesting opportunities across platforms, meaning you can serve ads on desktop or mobile to a target consumer/patient, post-exposure to a competitor’s ad on TV.”

Marketers can also further drill-down on their programmatic buys. Traditionally, demographic parameters or some form of a look-alike model drives programmatic media buys, but Virginia Evans, VP, Performance Analytics and Account Management, Medicx Health, says the use of patented Micro-Neighborhood targeting can be a simpler and HIPAA-compliant approach.

“Micro-Neighborhood targeting allows companies to target hyper-local areas based on where there is evidence of patients of interest,” Evans says. “Evidence is based on de-identified medical and pharmacy data that is aggregated to meet privacy standards. These highly relevant hyperlocal areas can have programmatic media deployed using display, online video, audio, and connected television.”

Another advancement being made is in real-world evidence (RWE). While RWE is already consistently data mined for retrospective insights, patient outcomes, modeling support program design, and interactions, in our new COVID-19 ever-changing healthcare environment real-time RWE is becoming a real consideration.

“Real-time RWE means integrating mobile, wearables, and other smart devices into a person’s circle of care and support,” explains Paul Cowley, VP of Data Insights and Partner Solutions, Curatio. “This enables AI to respond instantly with education, motivation, and interventions by considering the most recent data points. Support is now possible in a far range of options beyond the pill: peer support, social support, health literacy, and lifestyle management.”

Overcoming Data Barriers

Of course, the pure amount of data at a marketer’s fingertips means they are not always leveraging it to its full potential or just misinterpreting its value. One way to fix that: broader implementation of A/B testing or controlled experimentation.

“In many cases, we mistakenly take correlation for causation,” says Olivia Zhang, Data & Analytics Manager, Omnicom Health Group. “For example, increased media spend correlates to increased prescription, but it doesn’t necessarily mean increased media spend caused increased prescription. In this example, how can we prove increased media activations resulted in increased sales? One way is to map out touchpoints in the user journey as much as possible and on an individual level to examine which factor(s) contributed to prescription lift. The other way is to create a controlled experimentation environment, where media spend is the only changing variable to see if the difference in outcomes are statistically significant. Like in every field, determining causality is never easy in the real world.”

As data is being disseminated to more people—many of whom aren’t data scientists—it is increasingly important to present it in a way that anyone can understand. This has resulted in the shift toward data-driven storytelling.

“This is about connecting the dots for end users by providing meaning to the data via insights instead of just data points, because data without insights is meaningless at best—and dangerous at worst,” says Eric Talbot, SVP Strategy & Insights, PatientPoint. “Harvard Business Review has written about the importance of ‘data translators’ for some time now. As we move into 2021, the shift from reports and dashboards to data-driven stories will be a key trend expected to gain momentum.”

Another trend gaining momentum is the emergence and growth of regulations to impose restrictions on the use of customer data. Laws such as GDPR in Europe and CCPA in California are setting the standard for how advertisers and companies think about the use of data for targeting and customer experience programs.

“There is now a healthy debate about the future for tokens, open standards, and how the overall advertising industry can promote collaboration in a way that is sustainable, recognizes industry trends towards consumer control of data, and can evolve as new data sources become available over time,” says Mark Bard, Co-Founder, Digital Health Coalition. “The good news for pharma marketers is the industry has already put in place some of the highest standards when it comes to privacy, security, and regulatory standards. The next stage to prepare for will be the age of privacy-first marketing in 2023 and beyond.”

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