How Scary is Health Data?

File under: Big Data, Healthcare innovation, Patient Engagement, Relationship Marketing

As we learn from the media nearly every day, third-party data is ubiquitous. Between financial ratings agencies that track our every purchase and the NSA storing our cell phone activity, there are databases in the cloud that know pretty much everything worth knowing about our personal lives, and then some. Consumers are rightly spooked by the thought that some companies may use this personal data in disingenuous ways.

Particularly in healthcare, consumers are legitimately sensitive to the idea that somewhere there are anonymous databases that contains personally identifiable information (PII) about them and their medical history.

Physicians get nervous too when they realize that not only is there data about them and their practice, but there’s also almost perfect data on which drugs they prescribe. Pharma sales reps have much of that information at their fingertips. When they have a conversation with a doctor, they already know whether that physician is a profitable customer or not.

Pandora's BoxTransactions vs Building Long-Term Relationships
The fundamental question now is not whether this type of data should be accessible or not (Pandora is already out of the box) but how should it be used. How data is handled is directly correlated with the integrity of the company that’s using it.

Companies that flip data into a short-term opportunity to close a transaction may be violating the letter of the law. They are most certainly violating the spirit of confidentiality and trust. By not taking the long view, they harm any trust relationship, often irreparably, through behaviors that will come back to bite them.

Compare this attitude with a relational approach to customers. Companies that use data as a way to create better content, value, and more respectful marketing are taking a long-term approach to promotion. They start with a better understanding of what individual physicians really care about and then build solutions that meet those needs.

In a previous blog post, I talked about a pharma rep who provided valuable information to help a doctor’s diabetes patients, and how that value-driven approach differentiated both the sales rep and the company.

The ability to provide long-term value starts with understanding. And in a large and complex business like pharma and healthcare, understanding is driven by data that is managed responsibly.

It doesn’t have to be scary.