There are huge opportunities to learn from this wealth of data. It can be harnessed to help solve a wide range of problems from accelerating drug discovery to optimizing treatment protocols to tackling operational challenges in healthcare delivery.
What is more, as Big Tech moves deeper into the healthcare space and Big Pharma increasingly evolves towards a “big data” business model, the competition to leverage this tsunami of information is intensifying.
Murray Aitken, the Executive Director of the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, believes it means the world is embarking on a new era of person-centric care that will see clinical science bond with data science in a way that has never happened before.
“There are enormous opportunities to use data for improving healthcare, whether that’s in terms of individual patient outcomes, better population health or contributing to the sustainability of healthcare systems,” he said.
“It can provide insights into the underlying biology of health and wellness, as well as help develop new therapeutics to treat diseases and ensure they are used in the optimal way.”
After more than 30 years of tracking the healthcare industry, Aitken thinks the digital transformation of the sector has now reached an inflection point, with the pandemic acting as an additional catalyst by forcing the adoption of a host of digital tools from the rollout of virtual clinical trials to the use of telemedicine for care delivery.
Yet this rapid evolution of the health data economy brings not only opportunities but also risks. Privacy concerns mean the use of digital health information is intrinsically sensitive, obliging companies involved in the field to navigate a narrow path between optimizing outcomes and building the strictest possible protections for highly personal datasets. It is a reputational tightrope—and the demands of the public are high.
A recent Brunswick Insight survey highlights the dilemma. Based on answers from more than 1,100 well-informed members of the public in seven global cities—London, New York, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris and Frankfurt—the survey starkly reveals the hopes and fears engendered by the health data boom.
On the plus side, the poll found that 70% of respondents supported greater healthcare data sharing between the public and private sector, and 68% endorsed increased use of patient-level data for the development of drugs and medical treatments. But at the same time there was enormous concern about data privacy, with 87% of respondents believing that protecting patients’ data should be a priority for healthcare company CEOs—placing privacy on a par with the need to invest in research and development.