News Feature | November 24, 2014

Majority Of Pharma Still Outsourcing Big Data Collection

By Suzanne Hodsden

Despite the growth of Big Data as an in-house specialty for the pharmaceutical industry, drug companies are still relying on the expertise of outside vendors. A report published by Cutting Edge Information (CEI) found that 69 percent of pharma companies outsource their big data initiatives.

Conceptually, big data collection has been at work in e-commerce for years. Dominic Meyer of GfK explains that companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google have been collecting and analyzing data to monitor consumer behavior and steer advertising. 

According to Meyer, large scale attempts to gain insights from big data has only recently taken root in the pharma industry.

Thomas Davenport, author of the book Enterprise Analytics: Optimize Performance, Process, And Decisions Through Big Data, says, “Excitement about analytics has been augmented by even more excitement about big data. The concept refers to data that are either too voluminous or too unstructured to be managed and analyzed through traditional means. The definition is clearly a relative one that will change over time.”

According to the CEI report, “Pharmaceutical Big Data Insights: Harnessing Real-Time Data to Drive Decision Making and Innovation,” areas of data management currently outsourced include collection, storage, and analysis, with an emphasis on storage.  Comparatively speaking, only 51 percent of companies surveyed use third-party analysis.

Those that did outsource analysis still depended on their own employees to make decisions. The CEI report cites a top 50 Pharma executive who commented, “We may work with a third party to analyze or group data for us. But internally, we’re the ones that drive the analysis and decisions out of data.”

CEI hopes that their report will help drug companies develop a strategy to garner the full potential of big data with patient outcome information, develop their own big data teams in-house, and implement social media initiatives.

While there is much to be gained by these strategies, there is still a lot at risk. White House counselor, John Podesta released a study in May highlighting the ways in which business (pharmaceutical business in particular) must be careful with these new and promising methods and outlines several ways in which it might be misused.

Podesta’s study notes that inappropriate use of patient data risks the patient’s privacy and civil rights, and may lead to discrimination charges. Podesta cautions the health industry to address these complex concerns early and thoroughly in order to maximize potential gains.