LIFESCIENCES PULSE

A New Horizon: Social Media Analytics in Life Sciences with GDPR

 
May 24, 2019

Techopedia defines social media analytics as, “the approach of collecting data from social media sites and blogs and evaluating that data to take business decisions.” Social media has been flooded with data related to the life sciences and pharmaceutical industry. The immense data available online across different social media channels can be analyzed to derive useful business intelligence. This can help life sciences and pharma companies identify new requirements and possible areas of improvement.

This data can create formidable business intelligence that can help marketing teams drive effective marketing campaigns in a diverse market. It can be used to drive effective patient and physician engagements and get customer sentiments for different marketed products and ongoing therapeutics. The data can also be used to identify requirements on the basis of geography, race and age groups, among other factors. Psychiatric analysis can be done for identifying patients suffering from depression to reduce suicide cases in different geographies. Adverse event (AE) reporting can also be achieved to track the cases not reported to the concerned agencies. Besides deploying solutions for social media analytics, the existing processes can be improved to provide value to the customer. For example, integrating the existing customer engagement process with social media can provide useful insights like drug popularity for sales comparison across different geographies. In 2015, over 15000 dengue cases were reported in Delhi, raising the death toll to 60#. In 2016, over 4400 cases were reported followed by over 9200 cases reported in 2017#. Hospitals and Pharmaceutical companies struggle in estimating the patient count to be hospitalized and stocking the right amount of drugs/medication, within their supply chain respectively. Social media analytics can be used for an early identification of dengue season and estimating the right amount of cases to ensure that the inventory is managed properly by the pharma companies and at the hospitals.

Despite so many advantages, there have been concerns on data privacy when working with social media. The enormous amount of personally identifiable information (PII) that is available online and is stored on cloud has put the right of personal privacy at the forefront. The infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal has pushed data privacy concerns to be the most relevant topic for discussion in world media.

The EU (European Union) rolled out GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) on May 25, 2018. With GDPR, a new era of privacy regulations has begun. These regulations are not limited to the organizations based out of Europe. Even the organizations based outside of the EU have to comply with GDPR if any one of their customers is based out of the region. This has made almost every multinational organization adhere to the new guidelines. So, where does social media analytics stand with these regulations? Do these regulations restrict organizations to get business intelligence from social media? We have come across these questions several times since the new data privacy regulations have been rolled out. In our opinion, these regulations will bring new opportunities and will be beneficial to both customers and businesses.

Life sciences and pharmaceutical firms are already highly regulated. Adherence to the new regulations is a little addition to the existing model. To overcome the challenge, organizations can stick to four key points*:

·         Obtain consent from the users before using their data.

The users must be informed about how their data will be used and they must agree to it. It must be ensured that the consent is not ambiguous, contains the details of how the data will be processed and for how long it will be stored.

·         Make data anonymous before use.

It has been observed that most of the times personal information is not required in the data for analytics. For that purpose, data can be made anonymous i.e. the personal information such as name, address, email and phone number can be removed or exchanged with dummy information. It must be noted that pseudonymized data can be considered as personal data if the additional information used to backtrack the subject is kept. Pseudonymization should be avoided wherever possible.

·         Minimize the data.

Data minimization is a very important principle in achieving GDPR compliance. To achieve this, we need to first know if we really need all the data points. Personal information ought to be avoided while storing data for analytics and in some cases only the metrics can be stored instead of storing the source data.

·         Ensure accountability, and information regarding any leak must be conveyed to the customers.

Organizations should ensure that they have enough evidence to demonstrate their compliance to the regulations. In case of any data leakage, information should be conveyed to the customers with the preventive actions taken by the company.

These organizations and their customers will benefit in a number of ways with the new data privacy regulations. They will help companies maintain greater trust by ensuring data security to its customers. No user wants unwanted emails or flyers while browsing through the internet. With these regulations in place, targeted marketing can also be achieved easily while providing customers an improved marketing experience and helping business achieve higher customer satisfaction. Asking user to opt in to certain services creates better customer engagement as only the users who are interested will receive information through text messages, emails and brochures among others.

Technology providers can help pharma companies remain compliant to GDPR as well as explore new tools and technologies to mine into social media and meet their business objectives. These changes might initially give fewer results but in the long run, they will create a better environment for data analytics and add value to their customer’s businesses.

* These points are based on our understanding. To ensure compliance, consult your legal advisor.

Nitish Rawat is a part of Japan Delivery Center (JDC) in life sciences unit at TCS. In his professional experience, Nitish has developed solutions in customer engagement, social media analytics, patient monitoring and electronic content management across industries. He also has expertise in developing standalone, web and mobile applications. He is a Veeva Certified Vault Administrator and holds a degree in mechanical engineering from G. B. Pant Engineering College, Pauri Garhwal.