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In 2013, big data will drive big pharma

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Life sciences and big data are two drivers of Massachusetts innovation, and Trinity Pharma Solutions, which sells pharmaceutical sales and marketing analytics software, sits squarely at the intersection of those fields. Below, Zack King, co-founder and general manager of Trinity Pharma Solutions, shares what he sees as the big trends are for next year in pharmaceuticals.

2012 has been an eventful year for the pharmaceutical industry, with the patent cliff reaching its steepest point, the fierce debate over the Sunshine Act’s disclosure laws, and a presidential election that directly impacted the future of health care in this country. While we are still sorting out what all of the above will mean for the pharma, it is nearly certain that 2013 also will be a transformational and potentially groundbreaking year for the industry. There are clear signs about where pharma is headed, and many point toward a focus on innovative technology as a business imperative. Here are five noteworthy themes that will be a priority for life sciences companies in 2013:

Mobile: The iPad has attained a near-ubiquitous presence in pharma in the last year; recent studies have shown that 65 percent of field sales teams use the Apple tablet in some capacity. Clearly, we have moved beyond the proof-of-concept phase. The iPad provides a trusted platform for delivering robust sets of data with lightning-fast speed and agility. In 2013 the pharma industry will deliver to the iPad real-time analytics that allow drug reps to quickly and accurately determine the course and agenda for physician engagement. Furthermore, we’ll be able to determine the impact of those analytics by tying them back to overall salesforce effectiveness. HTML5 becomes the preferred platform for B2B apps.

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“Big” data: Commercial pharma has a lot of data at its disposal, but most in the industry wouldn’t classify it as a true big data problem. It is large, though, and pharma will find new uses to make that data actionable. Pharma has become much more data-savvy and better understands the need for analytics and the challenges in understanding and integrating data sources, and in operationalizing data.

The focus will shift from an IT perspective to a business one where the data is used as a competitive advantage, not just operational support.

Everyday Analytics: The health care industry as a whole is becoming more focused and targeted. For pharmaceutical companies specifically, that means understanding “what” just happened isn’t nearly as useful as understanding “why” it happened. In 2013 analytics will go mainstream and provide superior business value over mere reporting. SaaS and cloud analytic offerings make it easy for pharma to adopt as a business imperative. Analytics will further evolve and enhance with “monitoring” (what is happening now) and “predictive” (what might be happening) capabilities.

Hybrid IT and Cloud Computing: IT department’s role is changing to include more consultative services as solutions move to SaaS and cloud deployments. “Enterprise” software is losing its luster in favor of highly targeted and adaptable functional solutions that meet critical and unique business needs.

Social: Social media is not just about sharing photos and constant status updates. The adoption among healthcare providers and other health influencers is on the rise. Physicians’ social presence has become a trove of data that can be leveraged to better understand customer and patient sentiment and drive new types of analytics. The digital dialogue in the social realm of physicians, health professionals, and other sophisticated commentators will shape broader opinion (both online and “real”). These commentators are already a force, and in 2013 will become even more robust, impacting the business decisions of every major pharma company.

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