Please login to the form below

Big Data—a new player in the Healthcare Industry

Big Data is an exciting by-product of the information technology revolution and offers new ways of understanding customers.
Our previous blog explored the rise of Big Data and its importance to the market research industry. In this blog we investigate some of the ways in which big pharma have used big data and consider the specific implications for us, the healthcare market research industry.

Big data is exciting to healthcare because the integration of data sources, combined with the tremendous volume of data now available, affords pharma the chance to gain fresh insights into patient behavior and HCP decision-making, as well as make improvements to overall health system planning.  Major pharma companies, such as Astra Zeneca and GSK, have been quick to embrace Big Data to gain additional market understanding. For example, Astra Zeneca recently partnered with a data analytics company, Healthcore, which analyses insurance claims. By combining large amounts of medical records with insurance claim data, AZ was able to establish the relationship between treatment effectiveness and cost of care. This helps the company to identify more effective and affordable treatment for patients. This level of analytics, which gives pharmaceutical companies a means of developing more effective pricing strategies, is one that traditional market research agencies are unlikely to be equipped to offer.

GSK applied Big Data analysis in order to identify target customers. By working with data analytics company Occam, GSK aimed to “identify people who are mentioning a particular brand of ours but also track everything else they are talking about in the public domain to build a customer profile”, said James Parker, GSK’s CRM consultant. In this example, Big Data could realise real-time monitoring and reporting, in a way which traditional market research agencies cannot.

Consequently, we as market researchers must face the question: With Big Data analytics on the increase, will primary market research become redundant? 

We would like to think not. There are two skills required by both researchers conducting traditional primary market research and Big Data research. The first is an in-depth knowledge of the industry. This arms researchers with the ability to design the best solution to answer the business question. Secondly, researchers require the ability to analyze the findings and provide actionable recommendations which help companies increase their profitability and sustainability.

However, there are distinct differences between the two types of research in terms of approach and analysis. One characteristic of current Big Data research is that it is largely retrospective and mainly uses existing data. Sometimes the volume of data means that it can be used as a predictor of future behaviour, but this is open to misinterpretation. Big Data analysis sometimes gives ambiguous findings because of the limited context around the business question being addressed. Overall, Big Data is useful for making sense of the big picture and identifying overall trends and patterns but sometimes it can’t be relied upon to answer business questions at a more granular level. 

Primary market research takes a more structured approach. Data collection and analysis are controlled, meaning the findings should directly answer the research objective and address the business question. It is very valuable when you want to gather in-depth insights from specific types of audiences.

So what does the future hold for the healthcare market research industry? Well we think ideally we should be working in partnership to deliver an integrated solution. Primary market research will still be required to fill the gaps in understanding which Big Data is unable to provide. And primary market research agencies, should explore the possibility of partnering with Big Data analytics agencies, or even developing in-house analytics team, in order to provide a one-stop market research service for clients.

Research Partnership is one of the largest independent healthcare market research and consulting agencies in the world. Trusted partner to the global pharmaceutical industry, we use our expertise and experience to deliver intelligent, tailor-made solutions. We provide strategic recommendations that go beyond research, helping our clients to answer their fundamental business challenges. Find out more here: 

2nd April 2015


Company Details

Research Partnership

+44 (0)20 8069 5000

Contact Website

Chester House
Fulham Green
81-83 Fulham High Street
United Kingdom

Latest content on this profile

Virtual Conference Live
Research Partnership
Digital Health Tools - Physician Trends
Research Partnership
Live webinar:
Oncology landscape: How innovative market research methods can navigate you to success
Research Partnership
The disparity of patient experiences with Crohn’s Disease in Europe and Japan
Research Partnership
Research Partnership’s MedTech Division appoints two Directors
Chris Carles has joined as a Director in our Philadelphia office and Andrew Way as a Research Director in our UK office.
Research Partnership
Webcast: Influencing HCP behaviours – Is now the perfect opportunity?
Putting behavioural science at the forefront of market research
Research Partnership