Six Key Reasons Pharma Struggles with Data Management

Having timely, accurate data is critical to the success of any company. Data has never been easy to manage, and that holds especially true in the life sciences industry. I’m not talking about gene sequencing or clinical trial data; I’m referring to the myriad of information that collectively represents a company’s market and their customers. John Corcoran and I founded Trinity Pharma Solutions on the premise that this complex data represented a competitive advantage to the companies that could unlock it. Unlocking it, of course, is easier said than done.

In the past eight years we’ve built platforms and tools that transform large amounts of data into insights essential to successful sales and marketing organizations. These solutions provide the groundwork upon which precise and accurate decision-making can and should occur. They help identify performance issues, pinpoints areas for growth, highlight market opportunities and help to better understand your customers, leading to more engaging interactions.

But if we take a step back and look at the data management problem as a whole, allow me to channel one of my kids and ask the question – why? Why is data management so challenging in the pharmaceutical industry?

What follows are six key reasons why I think the industry has struggled managing data:

1) There’s a lot of it – The sheer volume of sales data can tax the internal resources of even the largest pharmaceutical companies. For smaller companies, the cost of sales data management can be prohibitive. With the ability to cut data at a more granular level (e.g. payor/ plan) it’s growing exponentially. What’s more, the tabulation of such large amounts of sales data requires divergent, multi-disciplinary skills not easy to harness in a large company environment.

2) It’s complex – The data is complex and not always user-friendly. Pharmaceutical sales data is typically reported at two levels: prescription (total, new, and refill from the prescribing physician), or outlet (i.e., hospital, retail pharmacy, etc.). The two data sets are very distinct. To be used effectively, an in-depth understanding of collection methodology, projection factors (if any), data gaps and limitations, etc. is required. Lastly, integrating varieties of this data across sources and channels increases the complexity equation.

3) It’s raw – Most pharmaceutical sales data is made available in “raw,” unprocessed form and inconsistencies and differences in format, content and quality are the norm. Extensive understanding of these nuances and manipulation is often required to yield meaningful results that create accurate insights.

4) It’s confusing – The definition of what constitutes a “customer” can have multiple meanings. A hospital may, for example, simultaneously belong to a Group Purchasing Organization (GPO), be owned by a hospital chain, and participate on a local level in an integrated (health care) delivery system. As such, a hospital or similar account can appear on multiple membership/affiliates list, all of which may be important to different constituencies within a client organization.

5) Who owns it? – There are often multiple customers within the same company for the same data. Entities as dissimilar as sales operations, business analytics, finance, marketing, strategic customers, and managed care/national contracting often have a direct and vested need for sales information. Depending on the company, responsibility for sales data management can reside in one or more of these areas, or it can reside in an internal MIS or IT group.

6) Time to data – The pace at which the market and competition is changing is at an all-time high. The insights you derive from your data are only valuable if they can make an impact in real-time. Data that is late or inflexible doesn’t have nearly the same impact if it is timely and on-point. This is often a disconnect between the data “owners” and the business drivers.

The essence of data management is to provide the business with timely, accurate and insightful access to information – to turn complex data into easy-to-use tools. This can be a daunting challenge for even the most sophisticated companies. The challenge is to define the information that is most important and fundamental to the business objectives while simultaneously meeting the needs of multiple users in an ever-changing and dynamic environment.

Access to integrated insights is a must have for any competitive life sciences company. It’s the lifeline to your field force and ultimately your customers, it’s core to the tactics being called from home office, and it’s the means by which strategies are developed at the executive level. We here at Trinity are proud to be part of a solution that’s easing the pain of data management, and helping pharma companies drive their business forward. 

Zack King

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