How can healthcare brands make the best use of data?

Jo Ann Saitta
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The process of gathering and analyzing information on healthcare customers has been vastly transformed by digital and data. Never before have companies been able to view and analyze customers’ detailed digital activities in such depth, providing them with the opportunity to build deeper intelligence and more effective relationships.

There’s no question we have an overwhelming amount of data in our world today but what we really need to solve healthcare communication problems is good data.


As a starting point it’s essential to get to grips with the overall data landscape. The mega view is overwhelming with about 90% of all existing data being generated in the last two years. At our current pace there are 2.5 quintillion new bytes of data created each day. Every minute we conduct 3.6m searches on Google, watch 4.1 million videos on YouTube and open 154,000 Skype sessions. Twitter has shown 189% year-over-year growth, now surpassing 500m tweets every day. I could carry on…

At a macro level, the US healthcare system alone is expected to generate 2,314 exabytes of data by 2020. This is because our new medical data ecosystem has never been more complex. Just think about all of the ways health information is now generated: electronic health records, wearables, insurance claims, genomic data, environmental data.

Turning finally to the the micro level, pharma companies have to navigate their own ecosystem of data that often sits within silos: sales representative interactions with HCPs, prescription data, market access data, marketing and communications, research and development, real world evidence, medical and scientific affairs.

The challenge and opportunity is for healthcare communicators to connect these valuable data elements across mega, macro and micro moments and uncover new customer insights.


We’re all now checking our phones more than 85 times a day so it will come as no surprise that the new customer journey is conducted via mobile – in-social and in-app. Less reliant on traditional website visiting and TV broadcasting, this new journey uses apps such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram alongside personal ones like banking – all demographics are ‘in-app’ for more than five hours a day! In addition, viewer consumption is migrating to over-the-top devices and platforms such as Netflix and Hulu, the former sitting at over 128m viewers.

Digital and data have opened up a new era of customer intelligence

The challenge to marketers will be two-fold: developing relevant and timely content for the mobile and in-app experiences; and measuring the engagements through traditional tools which haven’t kept up with the changing digital world.


Great opportunities exist within healthcare to leverage all of this data to better understand both patients and healthcare professionals as people. This will in turn influence the way we communicate and measure engagement. Here are just some suggestions of new approaches we should be taking:

Treat social as imperative

As communicators we need to lead our healthcare clients into more purposeful use of social platforms, well beyond tactics and listening. For example, through analyzing the social networks of healthcare professionals, pharma companies can use big data and analytics to identify who will most influence adoption of their drugs. This is a major shift from relying on traditional methods where key opinion leaders were based on the number of papers published or prescriptions written.

Organize and connect data

The most important thing a company can do today is organize their data – or, as I like to put it, “get their data house in order”. This means creating agile technology environments to collect and connect the various data sources, consumption behaviors and culturally relevant information. Through organized data, we can truly understand patients and healthcare professionals in ways we’ve never been able to before. It allows us to detect consumer behaviors, respond at scale and connect experiences for our customers across those mega, macro and micro moments.

Patient journeys re-imagined

An impactful example of organizing and connecting data is demonstrated in the five-day online journey of a cancer patient. This was uncovered when patient online search topics were connected with vast amounts of online consumer behaviors. In this case the patient journey – from diagnosis, to information/inspiration seeking, to landing on the brand site, to seeking financial aid/loans, to planning her end of life on – offers sobering insight. It did, however, provide an opportunity for the client to intervene at certain points in the patient journey and accelerate the connection with life-saving drugs. That is the power of connected data.

Digital and data have opened up a new era of customer intelligence. Online consumer behaviors have revealed a new customer journey as well as the way in which interconnected platforms enable omnichannel presence for brands. However, it’s no longer just about big data … companies must ensure they have access to good data in order to solve their brand or business problem.

And the best way we can take business advantage of all the data we collect and monitor about our customers is by organizing it.