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In Data We Trust

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

Words by Isabel O’Brien 

The rapid digital transformation of the pandemic has fueled fresh opportunities for the pharmaceutical industry to collect and harness data, but this venture must be approached with a strong consideration for consent and preference management

If the world could be broken down into two sets of individuals, the dividing line might fall between those who are big-picture thinkers and those who prefer to bring that picture to life. The flourishing of innovation is dependent on both of these characters executing their functions successfully, and in the world of data, it is crucial to align vision with prudence. The pharmaceutical industry has big ambitions for data in the wake of recent rapid digital transformation, but it must be cautious to nail the nitty-gritty detail to ensure that any data-driven strategy is built compliantly and wins the trust of its intended stakeholders.

The industry has always been data-driven in its drug discovery and development processes, but the digital transformation of the past two years has brought to light new data sources that could transform current sales and marketing models. A survey by GlobalData suggests that the implementation of artificial intelligence in sales and marketing will achieve a bigger uptake in the next few years – up by 4% from a current use rate of 18%. An eruption is coming, but for AI systems to improve relationships and engage with healthcare professionals, the matter of consent and preference management must be carefully managed.

Speaking at ‘Reuters Events: Pharma 2021’, Patrick Markt-Niederreiter, Head of Digital Excellence, Daiichi Sankyo Europe, explains: “Very often we focus or start on what we would like to achieve.” While ambition is needed to drive transformation in the world of data, he emphasises the importance of forward planning when looking to advance a strategy of this kind.

Very often we focus or start onwhat we would like to achieve

While AI platforms that target HCPs and allow for greater personalisation are beneficial to both parties, Markt-Niederreiter says an idea for a new model is all well and good until you realise that “you only have the consent of 4-5% of your customers”. He recommends that companies build and utilise customer databases based on opt-in models, rather than attempting to harness the data of individuals who have not willingly consented to being contacted.

Not only must companies strive to proactively gather consent from the outset, it is also vital to maintain trust with HCPs by enabling them to know how their data will be used. “Trust is built on transparency,” says Glenn Jackson, CEO, Syrenis. He explains that pharma companies must be transparent about how HCPs will be contacted, as well as giving their customers the ability to revoke their consent at any point. Consent management platforms like Syrenis are one way that this is trust cycle can be built: data can be viewed, amended or revoked in real time.

Another consideration lies in the challenge of navigating different privacy regulations around the world. “Data privacy regulations are constantly evolving,” says Jackson. He cites the California Consumer Privacy Act, which is set to be superseded by the California Privacy Rights Act in 2023. Advancements include the addition of various facets of the EU’s GDPR, such as minimising the volume of data that is collected and only storing it for as long as viably needed. The right to data portability is also being extended so that companies must send any data they have on an individual in an easily digestible format. Other privacy acts in the US and Canada are also heading for overhauls and companies must therefore be responsive to changes that are on the horizon.

“Artificial intelligence will play a key role in healthcare, but that will only be the case if doctors trust it,” says Nick Passey, Vice President, Commercial Digital and IT, AstraZeneca, also speaking at the Reuters event. The industry must stay focused on creative ideation, but also implore rigorous privacy standards to ensure trust is upheld. The process is not unlike building a tower of cards: if these two strands can work in tandem, the base will be sturdy enough to add additional layers of sophistication.

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