How Big Data Can Personalize and Revolutionize Patient Care (an Inspiration for the Public Relations Industry)

Caitlyn Keating

We all know how retailers use customer data to personalize advertisements online to match an individual’s interests (think Facebook ads), but what if this approach could be extended to the care of medical patients?

That was the topic of a recent keynote at last week’s Medical Informatics World Conference by Dr. Marc Berger, M.D., Vice President, Real World Data and Analytics, Pfizer, Inc.

Dr. Berger spoke on “Collaboration is King: Unlocking Big Data” and, more specifically, how to use unstructured healthcare data for richer analytics and improved, personalized patient care. He noted how healthcare is the slowest industry to really leverage big data to its fullest potential (due to the security regulations for patient protection) and encouraged participants to look at other industries’ evolution as a comparison.

Dr. Berger believes that this will be the future of patient care, to an extent. I really began to think how that could work – especially for those with chronic conditions. While there is a lot of unreliable medical data and research on the Internet, what if a platform or website was introduced that was not only reliable, but personalized to a specific user living with a specific illness. While this is still very far off – the healthcare industry is still trying to figure out how to turn unstructured data into structured data without losing pertinent information – it’s a pretty cool concept to think about with regards to data, and, as mentioned, something that we’re seeing several of our clients capitalize on in the marketing and technology industries today.

Dr. Berger also discussed wearable technology and how these devices could impact the future of data collection. It’s definitely a trend that we’ve beginning to see (e.g. FitBit) and could be another way to personalize treatment and better encourage health goals by introducing gamification and/or wellness incentives. But like everything else in the healthcare industry, transparency is both imperative and hard to achieve.

Leaving his session, my biggest takeaway was that the overarching goal for data aggregation and analysis is to make patient care more personalized than ever before.

History shows that patients want the face to face interaction with their physician and an improvement in technology through data analysis and personalization will achieve that and free up a physician’s time that is now focused on manual, administrative tasks. This is also true for customer experience and personalization – a customer wants to feel like they aren’t another number, as does a patient and, while technology is less personal at times, it allows for those in customer service positions as well as nurses and physicians to not only have more free time to address individual needs on a personal level, but also know more about the individual whom they’re addressing prior to their conversation.

Healthcare is not the only laggard in big data. My own industry, public relations is also lagging in data aggregation for improved personalization. We can use media pitching as the parallel example.

Public relations professionals are tasked to identify reporters who write on specific industry topics and then research them further to learn more about their writing style, preferred contact method, specific writing focus, home address (half kidding), etc. As with an individual consumer or patient, reporters expect the personalized interaction and we, as public relations professionals, are taught to steer very clear of sending any automated or stock pitches.

Now imagine if there will be a new technology that could improve the way in which public relations professionals conduct research, collect insights and personalize all their interactions with media the same way Dr. Berger suggests for the future of patient care?





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