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January 2, 2024

Too many channels? Not enough data? How medical affairs can solve its silo problem

Is your insights management strategy ‘just right’?
data for medical affairs

When we worked with Reuters Health to survey medical affairs leaders about their insights management challenges, we got some interesting results. Among the stats that grabbed us: 40% of respondents said they collect so much data it’s difficult to know what to focus on, while almost the same proportion (38%) stated they don’t generate enough data to extract the insights they need.

Same industry, same profession, but the exact opposite problem.

What’s equally fascinating is that this leaves just 22% of med affairs teams in what we could call the ‘Goldilocks Zone,’ with a volume of data that’s ‘just right’ for insight gathering. But what does it mean to have too much or too little data? What might be causing the problem, and how can medical affairs overcome the challenge?

The answer may lie in solving for internal silos first.

Questions about insights management? Our buyer’s guide has answers. Get the guide

Too much data for insight gathering

For 40% of our survey respondents, proliferating data might be too much of a good thing. A surfeit of information can quickly become unmanageable and overwhelming, leading to ‘analysis paralysis’ and an inability to extract valuable insights.

However, for many med affairs teams, the issue is as much about data quality as it is about data quantity. Large volumes of data are often unstructured, incomplete, inconsistent, or inaccurate – usually due to data collection or integration issues. Any conclusions from such unreliable data will only lead to erroneous or misleading insights.

‘Noise’ is also a real issue in large datasets. Irrelevant information can hide meaningful patterns and correlations, obscuring the insights you seek and slowing information gathering.

According to Drug Discovery World, “The life sciences data landscape is growing in complexity and scale, with organizations generating increasingly high volumes of data. Yet, these data are still stored and searched using outdated methods. As a result, there are vast amounts of unstructured data stored in various siloed locations.”

To solve the data dilemma, medical affairs teams should first work to eliminate internal silos by using a tech-enabled approach.

“I don’t think we should excuse [silos] going forward…technology has evolved and brings us now in a position where we can connect the dots.” – Andreas Gerloff, VP, Global Head of Medical Customer Excellence, Bayer

Too little data for insight gathering

The problem of too little data is perhaps more obvious. Simply put, working from too small a data set means you likely lack the information required to reach reliable conclusions.

Insufficient data makes creating robust, accurate data models all but impossible. The model will either fit the noise in the data over any valuable nuggets of information or be far too simplistic to offer anything of use. Equally, a small sample size reduces statistical power – limiting the ability to spot relationships between variables in the data.

In smaller data sets, discrepancies and outliers carry more weight. Erroneous data points can mask important patterns and relationships or invalidate your findings. Small data sets also fail to paint a complete picture – overlooking conditions or events that occur infrequently within the population, such as rare diseases.

According to McKinsey, “Lack of high-quality data sources and data integration… is cited by both pharma and medtech data and analytics (DnA) leaders as a top issue. In addition to accessing existing data, DnA leaders are increasingly interested in supporting decision-making by generating new data from business operations, such as new digital channels for HCP engagement.”

The importance of insights management

So, data sets that fall to either side of our nominal ‘Goldilocks Zone’ can be equally damaging for med affairs teams. But why do 78% of companies fail to capture the data they need to extract valuable insights? Other results from our survey may shed some light on the problem.

Earlier, we suggested that pharma teams need technology to help them analyze data and report on insights. Accordingly, 61% of medical affairs leaders told us they already are. And those that do use a variety of methods:

  • Data visualization products (58%)
  • Analytics software (49%)
  • Spreadsheets (37%)

Given the diversity of responses and the ongoing reliance on spreadsheets, it seems that even companies that embrace technology for data capture and insight gathering haven’t yet adopted a unified strategy. With multiple systems, products, and approaches at their disposal, it’s hardly any wonder that data remains siloed, unstructured, or incomplete.

Here’s one last statistic that won’t surprise you in light of this discussion: 85% of respondents say that a single, organization-wide system helps them generate and share insights more effectively.

Medical affairs is seeking an end-to-end data capture and insights management approach. An insights management platform streamlines data collection, organization, and analysis, generating the valuable insights to make informed strategic decisions easier. Is an insights management platform the right move to help your business find the ‘Goldilocks Zone’? Read our complete insights management platform buyer’s guide.

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