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PA OPINION

How compliance can drive innovation and value in the pharmaceutical industry

More than a year on from the introduction of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), pharmaceutical companies are still investing heavily in fixing known compliance gaps and embedding privacy across the organisation.

While the cost of complying with new regulation can be substantial, there are opportunities for organisations that don’t see compliance as another tick-box exercise. Such innovative companies can improve trial recruitment and retention, increase profitability and grow brand equity by focusing investments in data protection on three areas: creating a cohort of data donors, harnessing the power of their inventory and differentiating their engagements with health care professionals (HCPs).

Create a cohort of data donors

In our experience, patients and the public are cautious about their health data. Most lack a clear understanding of what health data exists, what they‘ve agreed to share and why they’re sharing it. They tell us “I don’t know what information sits in my electronic health record.” This lack of understanding means there’s a small community of data donors – well-informed members of the public who are actively engaged with health research. These engaged people own their data and know who’s using it and what for, have comfort that it’s secure and have control over giving consent.

In contrast to data donation, the public understands the value they can offer by donating blood and organs, leading to a much larger group of donors.The increased public awareness of data privacy and personal information, driven by GDPR-related communications, gives pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to create a similar level of understanding and trust. They can leverage the increase in data privacy awareness to recover public trust by educating people about the value their health data brings to life science research. Communicating how they use health data and what control people have over it will attract more data donors, driving value through more effective trial recruitment and retention, and furthering efforts to run site-less trials.

Harness the power of your inventory

A key requirement of GDPR is to create and maintain an inventory of all the personally identifiable data held. Organisations can use this inventory to change their view of data from one that focuses on a single process or system to one that looks at the entire organisation. Presenting how data flows across the business will highlight standardisation opportunities, redundant processes and ineffective handover points. For example, it could show how to align systems and third-party providers across geographies.

This presents the greatest opportunity to recoup GDPR costs as standardising and simplifying will improve operating performance and increase profitability. For example, we helped a top 10 pharmaceutical company evaluate over 100 processes involving data of HCPs across Europe. This meant using their inventory to answer questions like:

  • are bespoke HCP reporting procedures required locally?
  • can we automate routine reporting?
  • can a single CRM system meet the needs of the whole organisation?
  • can artificial intelligence tools anonymise/ pseudonymise personal information?
  • can we standardise event management processes across business units?

When looking to improve operating performance, organisations can look at the inventory data through different lenses, such as global or local, internal or external, system or process. Whichever way you cut it, understanding this data and acting on the information will increase profitability.

Differentiate your engagement with healthcare professionals

With a better view of the data they hold, pharmaceutical companies can differentiate their engagement with HCPs. Cleansing the information in the customer relationship management system will let companies be more efficient and targeted in their HCP engagements, providing value with each interaction as they understand the ‘customer’ and their drivers.

Taking such a customer-centric approach will create a community of engaged and responsive HCPs, who view the pharmaceutical organisation as a trusted advisor, improving brand perception and equity, and expanding patient reach.

This improved dialogue also allows for a greater understanding of the patient community, creating the opportunity to design product differentiation strategies that meet patients’ needs.

Seize the value in compliance

While compliance is necessary, it shouldn’t stifle innovation. In fact, it often creates opportunities. Organisations that manage the balance between compliance and innovation will create a competitive advantage. Opportunities include; leveraging improved public understanding of personal information and create an engaged cohort of data donors, tailoring HCP engagements to ensure 2-way value add relationships, and utilise the inventory to understand your organisation and accelerate digital transformations. The better management of data that GDPR demands drives bigger opportunities to do things better.

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