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With Big Data Comes Big Responsibility

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

Words by Louise Rogers

Not only does data never sleep, it operates in complete overdrive. Google alone processes >40,000 searches every second and >90% of the data we have collected to date is from the last 2 years. A certain dichotomy presents itself between data’s incredible and fateful possibilities: data science has often come under fire for unethical or unintended negative consequences, with privacy usually presenting as the biggest casualty, and the Cambridge Analytica saga is only adding more fuel to the fire. Saturated in the resultant smoke, individuals are often blind to the good data can do and is doing.

“Availability of large repositories of data has enabled pharma to accelerate drug discovery and become more proactive in treating and getting healthcare to patients”, says Oodaye Shukla, Chief Data & Analytics Officer, HVH Precision Analytics. “And there are elements of data that we don’t even know about yet, which we will collect in the future.”

We have typically been reactive in the way we treat disease: we wait to get sick, visit the doctor, and rely on that person’s experience and knowledge to diagnose us. “Why don’t we turn that equation around and use the massive data sets and billions of records we have to diagnose before someone gets sick?”, asks Shukla. “In essence, it’s about therapies finding patients rather than patients seeking therapies.”

In essence, it’s about therapies finding patients rather than patients seeking therapies.

HVH use AI and machine learning to predict certain diseases. One example is their work towards detecting spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) in newborns. Each day that SMA goes undiagnosed, the condition becomes more fatal. So HVH partnered with US hospitals nationwide to stream the data being collected from newborns and apply machine learning techniques to detect those with SMA. “Currently we get one positive hit a day – we are then able to get those babies onto the right and appropriate therapies as soon as possible”, says Shukla. The company are currently using their systems to predict other rare diseases and unlock a healthier road for many.

Data is the oil that fuels the digital economy, and so it becomes the hot topic in every conversation, especially in marketing. Marc Speichert, Chief Digital Officer, GSK, discusses GSK’s aim of becoming the leader in data-driven healthcare marketing. “We are looking at how we get the next billion consumers into our portfolio”, he tells the audience at Cannes Lions. To do this, GSK are coding digital, data, and analytics into their DNA, “and we have been pushing this really hard in the marketing department from a creativity perspective.” He speaks about the company’s ‘We See Your Pain’ campaign, for their pain medication Excedrin. GSK began listening to consumers on social media in an attempt to fully understand what it is like to suffer a migraine. By infusing that data into their conversations, they were able to reinvent their marketing and create far more engaging content. “The last piece was incorporating creativity into the process and understanding critical moments for the consumer. We created limited edition medication packs, with personal stories presented on the packaging. Within a couple of hours all products were sold out and we had received >1 billion impressions from the initiative”.

Data is the oil that fuels the digital economy

Two different cases, two ways of using data to do good and unlock innovation. With big data comes big responsibilities: the potential for a positive change in healthcare is huge, but it must be harnessed in the right way. Pharma’s good intentions mean they must strike while the iron is hot and use data to create good outcomes for patients and society.

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