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This article was published on July 21, 2017

How data is helping to upgrade healthcare and pharma innovation

How data is helping to upgrade healthcare and pharma innovation
George Beall

Healthcare, life sciences, and pharmaceutical research are hot-button issues in the U.S. and abroad. As the debate surrounding federal health care plans rages in Washington D.C., a quiet undercurrent is forming to help make a change in the industry regardless of political opinion, and outside its influence.

That shift is being led by a growing number of companies in the life sciences arena that are working to upset the status quo by turning data into actionable insights that can help benefit every aspect of healthcare.

Over 80% of healthcare data is unstructured. Unstructured data, simply put, is any information that does not have a defined data model or is not compiled in a defined manner. As a result, there is an immense demand for organizations and software that can help interpret this unstructured data to help make it useful for health organizations.

Though this unstructured data accounts for an overwhelming majority of the information at hand, only 23% of existing healthcare data insights come from it. That means it is a grossly underutilized category in need of organization.

Gaurav Tripathi, data expert and CTO of Innoplexus AG, one of the companies leading this change, describes the problems the industry is tackling, “The existing methods require intensive human intervention and hence are prone to errors as well eat up a lot of time. They tend to deal with information in isolation and don’t ‘connect the different dots’ automatically.”

The good news is a number of technology innovators are working to solve these problems for life sciences.

 Concept based intelligent searches

Most organizations struggle when it comes to warehousing and searching all the available information. Tripathi explains, “Due to difficulties in searching for medical data, researchers are often unaware of other works or even breakthroughs pertinent to their work. As a result, they continue spending time heading in the wrong direction.” He shared that unless these search methods are upgraded researchers will only have access to a, “snapshot of data that gets outdated within days.”

By developing analytics and search tools specifically designed for the medical community, companies like Innoplexus are making it easier to make use of all the medical data that’s out there. What’s more significant however is the improvement of the kinds of queries that can be made. By increasing the accuracy of these queries, data companies can reduce the amount of time spent searching for critical information.

Streamlining drug production

Around this time last year the FDA began to explore cloud computing to assist with the drug approval process. On average a drug takes 12 years to make it from development to approval. One lengthy part of that journey is the FDA’s outdated paper processes, but cloud solutions could help streamline the application process for faster approval.

Beyond that, data analytics could also improve the creation process for new drugs. Better research tools could help developers find better research candidates, as well as identify problems with the drug earlier in the process. These kinds of insights can be shared rapidly online to help increase access to critical information.

Reducing cost through efficiency

A reduction in costs could allow for reinvestment into critical functions like researching cures or new medications. One of the main ways this kind of cost reduction could be achieved is by creating databases that reduce redundancies for healthcare companies. Many healthcare organizations are incredibly large, and bigger companies have a tendency of creating redundant functions, especially when spread out over multiple offices. 

“In the last 5 years, life science industry has started to include technology in their day-to-day work,” says Tripathi. “Examples include pharmaceutical and academic organizations purchasing licenses and collaborating with tech companies. We can expect that digital therapeutics will become mainstream, while dedicated app stores for Life Sciences data will change how data is accessed and consumed.”

As data analytics begin to provide more solutions in healthcare, we can expect healthcare and pharmaceutical companies to invest more in their data, and more startups will emerge to help them make sense of it all. The result will be better health solutions for everyone.