Opportunities and pitfalls in monetizing healthcare data

Healthcare is in the middle of a digital data revolution that is helping to improve patient outcomes, enhance overall wellness and identify new treatments. It also has the potential to maximize efficiencies, reduce costs and increase business value. The challenge is to do this ethically, securely and effectively.

Approximately 30% of the world’s data volume is being generated by the healthcare industry, according to the healthcare division at global investment bank RBC Capital Markets. It estimates that by 2025 the compound annual growth rate will reach 36%. This will put healthcare data creation ahead of manufacturing and financial services.

Digitalization of the healthcare sector will result in broader healthcare objectives regarding real-world evidence and precision medicine, according to research by Frost and Sullivan. But to achieve these goals, the analyst firm said that the industry needs to harness data monetization.

“Current healthcare challenges of interoperability and data silos are tough to address, but the medical technology industry must rethink data strategies,” explains Siddharth Shah, Healthcare & Life Sciences Program Manager at Frost & Sullivan. “Several large MedTech players have already built value propositions around digital solutions with data at the core, which present opportunities to create new business models that drive efficiencies internally and help increase revenues and market share.”

At the same time, the increasing use of IoT to monitor treatments is also opening up new sources of valuable and accurate data. This data can provide deeper insights for medical research, analyze drug effectiveness and enhance patient engagement in their care.

Strategies for data monetization

The two key strategies for monetizing data are indirect and direct. In an indirect approach, the healthcare industry can monetize data using analytics to get valuable insight to improve internal processes, products and services. In this model, data does not leave the organization. It can help to build more personalized healthcare plans for patients, for example, and digitally empower patients to take an active role in their health and care.

Conversely, a direct approach revenue stream can be built by selling data to third parties, setting up data-as-a-service, or creating personalized products and services for target audiences with partners. Another example is selling data in return for performance benchmarking, which is routine in healthcare. Pharmaceutical companies, for example, are launching schemes to share research data to help transform diagnosis and develop customized medicine. Real-world data can also help to innovate healthcare products and solutions with favorable patient outcomes.

Understanding the multitude of healthcare stakeholders is essential when determining how and where data can be monetized. Internal and external stakeholders include healthcare providers, clinicians, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, investors, patients and society at large.

The healthcare landscape comes with risks

The healthcare industry is responsible for safeguarding the data it collects, aggregates and potentially shares. This data represents a significant liability both legally and in terms of security. Thus, direct monetization requires careful analysis of this risk and benefits and if it is appropriate to monetize specific medical data.

It is also critical that this data is as protected as possible. Healthcare data is extremely sensitive, and a breach can result in a loss of reputation and costly lawsuits. In the U.S. last year, CommonSpirit Health, the second largest health system in the U.S., was hit with a class-action lawsuit alleging negligence for a ransomware attack that saw 600,000 compromised.

In a bid to reduce such risk, the European Commission is setting up the European Health Data Space, designed to provide a data-sharing framework and apply common standards and practices for digital health data. It has three main objectives: providing EU citizens with control over their health data; ensuring a consistent structure for using this data for research, innovation and regulatory needs; and opening a secure digital economy for health services.

In the UK, the government is looking to harvest patient-identifiable data from NHS hospital systems and share it on its data platform, which has already drawn attention from privacy campaigners who are worried about how the data will be used. NHS England is currently tendering for a federated data platform which it says it will not mandate. Instead, it will invite NHS Trusts and integrated care systems to engage in the program to support their own use cases.

Regulatory barriers

Healthcare is highly regulated and governed by local and national laws that must be considered when monetizing healthcare data. Patient safety is paramount for every healthcare provider, and poor data governance can rapidly create huge issues.

Any data monetization strategy must adhere to regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe. In the UK, the legal frameworks covering how patient data must be looked after and processed include the Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018, which brought GDPR into law, and the Common Law Duty of Confidentiality (CDLC). The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the U.S. outlines the lawful use and disclosure of protected health data.

Monetizing healthcare data has already started

Forward-thinking companies have already triggered health data sharing and monetizing programs.

Mercy Technology Services (MTS), the technology arm of U.S.-based healthcare provider Mercy, has set up a real-world evidence network to pool data for advanced analysis. The data is shared among providers and drug and device manufacturers to advance patient care. Subscribers to the network are supplied with regularly updated, curated data.

In addition, Mercy has partnered with the Mayo Clinic to correlate more than a decade’s worth of deidentified clinical data and treatment outcomes. This data will provide clinicians, providers and operational leaders with critical information to advance patient treatment and improve operational efficiencies.

From a manufacturing perspective, Johnson & Johnson’s Biosense Webster, makers of heart-mapping hardware and ablation catheters to treat cardiac arrhythmias, have created a cloud-based network to share the data from its devices with medical institutions. The solution will enable doctors and hospitals to review, analyze and share case data, along with video and image files.

Making better decisions with healthcare data

Data and analytics are invaluable to the medical sector, improving decision-making, advancing patient care and clinical innovation and generating new revenue streams. However, putting a data-monetization strategy in place is not easy – particularly in a highly regulated industry like medical care. This is where the expertise of a trusted partner comes in.

Orange Business has extensive experience in helping its customers understand the quality of their data, creating a secure strategy to monetize and re-imagine the opportunities available for its use.

The healthcare market is increasingly disruptive. Amazon, for example, is one step nearer to its $3.9 billion acquisition of One Medical to take a sizeable market share. Healthcare organizations must look at strategies to monetize their data now if they want to get a lead on their new competitors.

Find out how Orange Business can help you unleash the value of your data.

Jan Howells

Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites, including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.