Monday, August 23, 2010

Data Mining in the Real World

Once upon a time, the business of data mining did not exist -- drug reps gathered such data on their own. Predicting sales was less than scientific. But, as the business of data mining grew, the science of predicting sales became more accurate, and industry loved it.

Today, not everyone feels the love. Three states -- New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont -- all have some type of ban on data mining. Critics of data mining say that letting industry have this information interferes with the doctor-patient relationship and more money is spent on expensive medicines. They also argue that data mining violates a physicians’ privacy – an issue these folks need to take up with the AMA, we think.

We argue that data mining serves an excellent purpose – and that is to see how drugs are being prescribed in the real world. Drug A was expected to bring in this much revenue,  but it's brought in that much. Why? Does it have an unknown side effect? Drug B was approved for this purpose, but it seems doctors are prescribing it for another purpose. Does it warrant a study?

Eliminating data mining will have unintended consequences for the general public. While it will eliminate the privacy concerns -- something the critics want -- it will limit health care data to only those government health officials with access to Medicare and Medicaid prescription data. These patients represent only a portion of the population, and a skewed portion at that.
Still, we see this glass as half full.  Eliminating data mining may force drug reps to return to their roots, something that seems to be happening to pharma companies in other areas as well. Then, the focus was not so much on who to call on, but on supplying information of value to the provider. Flying blind might have been scary for some, but for many of us older reps, we found it worked because we developed relationships built on trust and credibility.

Isn't that why qualified, experienced reps are hired in the first place? 

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