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The Value of Data

The value of personal medical data is obvious to every patient and healthcare provider. It is the information that can chart everything from childhood height and weight through to drug prescription history, or even the spread of a disease through the body and subsequent recovery.

Since these facts and figures can literally mean the difference between life and death, they must be stored securely and accessed only by those who have the authority and reasons to do so. Having a single source of secure, verified data not only ensures that everyone accesses the correct information but also streamlines organisations by preventing inefficient and often contradictory duplications.

But what’s the value of this data to other parties within the healthcare sector and healthcare data supply chain? To the businesses that manufacture drugs, equipment and disposable products? To the hospitals that order and use these products on a daily basis? To the doctors and nurses who must catalogue the equipment and drugs that they handle?

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Data usage in life sciences can appear to be a tangled web because every facet overlaps with the next. Yet controlling, protecting and facilitating this flow of data will become increasingly important as the sector undergoes digital transformation. Who has access to it, where it is stored and when it has been accessed needs to be securely controlled and also rigorously chronicled. Adhering to the rules and regulations is one thing for an organisation, the ability to prove accountability is also vital for both patient safety and business reputation.

Consider, for example, a batch of medical monitors that are revealed to have a manufacturing defect. The ability to pull these machines out of the supply chain, or even from hospitals, depends on each unit having a unique identifier. When you’re talking about a batch of potentially defective drugs rather than a machine, the importance of quickly finding every dose is magnified tenfold.

Beyond such practical considerations, medical data has a business value that goes beyond safety and quality control. Using a single source of verified, traceable data across an entire organisation has tangible cost benefits. It prevents the duplication of effort and reduces risks associated with data quality, which can improve margins and reduce costs. With all parties in every department seeing the same data, more agile, confident decision-making is also possible.

With an increase in mergers and acquisitions throughout this sector, R&D costs soaring and stockholder expectation putting pressure of businesses to release new products or services, such cost savings are crucial.

Data also has the ability to drive competitor advantages and new business models, which can create entirely new revenue streams for businesses that, until now, have been built on manufacturing and sales. The Product-as-a-Service (PaaS) model allows organisations to access equipment without an upfront purchase cost by paying for it on a per use or per month basis and adding in the use of Internet of Things (IoT) technology giving devices constant connectivity, the manufacturer retains ownership of all products while maintaining a control of all inventory. This ‘always online’ status provides a stream of real-time data from each device, which is in itself a business opportunity.

For a start, manufacturers can offer expanded ranges of services that go far beyond supplying equipment. For example, they can provide heart monitors while also offering real-time analysis of the data via IoT connectivity. Secondly, by gathering patient data from a global pool of such devices before suitably anonymising the results, AI analysis of this big data pool has the potential to be used as a powerful research tool.

The universal rollout of IoT-enabled devices throughout the life science sector could provide patients with more control of their treatments, could provide researchers with a previously unimaginable source of anonymised patient data and could provide businesses with several new revenue streams. Yet all of this is possible only with well-managed, secure and accountably accurate and accessible data.

How this is achievable, and how patients can be convinced that their medical data is in safe hands, is something we’ll be talking about in our next blog on regulatory compliance. If you’d like to learn more right now though, simply download the Insource white paper ‘Life sciences in flux: global opportunities for a global industry’.