With the holidays well behind us, it’s time to take stock of 2018 and discuss what’s ahead for 2019 and beyond. In the past few years, advanced analytics has become much more accessible for many non-tech companies, driven by cheaper storage and improved processing power. Healthcare and the life sciences industries, in particular, are now seeing a lot of interest in the growing volumes of healthcare data, along with increased demand in outcomes-based product design and commercialization from regulators, customers and communities.
Right behind R&D and regulatory applications comes an interest in the commercial uses of data and analytics, but this is where companies are still struggling. Many commercial data sets aren’t well-curated or defined, analytics skills are in short supply, and the areas where companies can focus to gain an outsized advantage are not well-understood. Yet the interest is strong and the search for the right areas to apply analytics is under way across many—if not all—of the companies that we’ve worked with last year.
So what’s to come in the medtech industry as it relates to driving change through analytics? Here are our top five predictions:
- Analytics will get personalized. The explosion of data and advancements in analytics, combined with the premium on reps’ time and overall margin pressure, will force medtech to consider more automated, personalized, context-aware solutions to serve analytics to the field force on the go via the medium of their choice. Leading companies will create solutions that will give reps the same experience that they obtain from consumer applications. Analytics will be conversational (such as a sales rep asking Siri about her business performance), context-aware (such as alerts that are sent based on a rep’s current location and performance), and customized (users will be empowered to act based on the relevance of the insights provided). Other adjacent industries, such as pharma, have already started to implement prototypes, and it won’t be long until these systems become ready for implementation across all of life sciences. Medtech commercial operations will deal with change management issues and may be initially perceived as “heavy handed” to push insights, so a strong collaboration may be required between the analytics teams and commercial teams to trust AI to deliver the insights.
- “Analytech” will mature. Technology and analytics will continue to converge and their symbiosis will become stronger. The continued maturation of scalable data technologies, cloud-based deployment and new “as a service” models like MLaaS (machine learning as a service) will enable leading companies to power analytics like never before. Analytics will stop being served separately through dashboards or reports and will be embedded and invoked from within the commonly used technology applications such as CRM, expense reporting and HR. Leading medtech organizations will begin to manage their critical sales data more strategically. They’ll begin initiatives to tap into useful commercial data such as rep activities, case scheduling and customer profiling, and put them to use in commercial applications. The traditionally underutilized CRM systems will still meet with resistance and a lack of trust from the field and headquarters alike, but some leaders will find a way a way to embed analytics into CRM to improve adoption, and also extract relevant information and enhance the CRM data with market research and publicly available data, especially in the areas of customer demographics and attitudes. Novel methods such as social listening and web-scraping that help glean customer details and attributes from publicly available sites will continue to mature. The role of the chief data officer will continue to proliferate, and the main objective will be to mature “analytech” and drive business by strategically governing their data.
- Data science (as we know it) will die. AI has outpaced data science in terms of the number of times it’s being mentioned in earnings calls. With the realization that the data scientist role will continue to be difficult to fill, analytics-driven organizations will aim to reduce reliance on the in-house data scientists and start to partner with analytics service providers to build the analytics platforms, AI/ML algorithm packages and data preparation services. The companies will then unleash their business analysts in the role of “citizen data scientists” to leverage these platforms and services. These citizen data scientists will have data-science-like skills, but they won’t need to be as advanced as data scientists. Citizen data scientists will translate analytics into the right context, delve into new data, improve existing models and, more importantly, advance storytelling through data.
- The internet of things and digital connected health analytics will shape new business units. Leading medtech companies will develop an IoT and a digital connected health strategy, and they’ll continue to make their devices smarter and more connected as they prepare for a counterattack on the tech industry. Moreover, they’ll start to move away from the notion that “analytics drives business” to “analytics is the business,” creating new business units that will generate new revenue streams by providing services and products around IoT applications and advanced endpoints (such as wearables), and create value dossiers on improved outcomes.
- The CIO will emerge as a change agent. Disruption through tech, M&A activity, new regulatory reforms and a renewed product focus will mean that medtech goes digital, both internally and in the way it does business. This will present the medtech CIOs with a great opportunity to transform their role to be even more strategic, to be a steward of the company’s digital capabilities. Maintaining the scalability and the security of digital health IoT platforms, navigating FDA regulations on medtech software and building revenue-enabling analytics platforms are just some of the challenges that CIOs will take on in order to transition the medtech industry to “analytech” companies that just happen to be in the healthcare space. In the process, they will also bridge the historic cultural divide between business and IT, creating a new blend of talent that will successfully drive the organizational agenda.
While some of these trends may be bold, we believe that many medtech organizations in 2019 will create a rallying cry to finally drive change through analytics and strive to adopt these trends. Many companies have already embarked on change management campaigns to change the ways the field and leadership team make decisions, making them more analytics-driven. Not many will succeed right away, but our hope is that those who have tried will see themselves celebrating the progress.
We are quite excited about 2019.