The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference usually begins – unofficially – with the announcement of a large acquisition, getting people talking about the big deals they expect in the year ahead.

This year was different.

Instead of a mega-buyout, the announcement that started the chatter was an upstart venture-backed company, EQRx. The company – which didn’t even have a presentation slot at the meeting – isn’t aiming to cure cancer or leverage CRISPR. Its business goal is to disrupt the industry by unleashing cheap me-too drugs with the goal of lowering drug prices.

That a pricing-focused start-up dominated the pre-JPM conversation was a tell-tale sign of a big shift in how the industry is looking at pricing and access. Because it wasn’t just EQRx that was talking about the topic. A steady stream of stories covered industry executives’ thoughts on why the cost of drugs remains high for patients and what can be done about it.

These included various views on prescription drug insurance structures with significant patient cost sharing, who reaps the value of drug rebates negotiated in contracts with middlemen pharmacy benefit managers, and the practice of price mark-ups by hospitals.

Talking about pricing can no longer take a back seat. Every company’s perspective on how to limit the impact of drug pricing on patients and society must be at the heart of the story that company tells investors, healthcare professionals, patients, policymakers, business partners, payers and voters. It is the now most meaningful part of how a company’s corporate social responsibility efforts are seen by the public.

To be sure, no company should make its presentation at J.P. Morgan solely about pricing and value. The industry’s lifeblood remains innovation, and the promise of the next cure is what keeps the biopharma industry moving forward. But companies that cannot or will not speak clearly and proactively about value risk their reputation, and that is a trend that will remain for the foreseeable future.

It is imperative that biopharma companies start taking the following approaches:

First, they must make proactive pricing ideas, solutions or frameworks a component of their company narrative. Rather than pointing to problematic structures elsewhere in the system affecting cost, biopharma must focus the story on what they can control. One size does not fit all, so companies should think about how pricing/value solutions can fit  their own specific situation, needs and story. There is reputational high ground open for the taking for those proposing proactive solutions.

Second, both technology and operational innovation are vital in any truly innovative industry. Companies must elevate communications around creative approaches to pricing or contracting to meet the demand of external audiences who are hungry for novel solutions. Innovators innovate, both in the laboratory and in the marketplace. And while many companies are great at talking about scientific breakthroughs, they must not miss the opportunity to apply the same focus to storytelling about their business models and pricing.

In the receptions I attended, the chatter often revolved around how the JPM buzz was muted this year. But to complain about the lack of the big-bang deal was to miss the real buzz: that we’re headed to a new future in the way companies use patient access to frame their mission, gain competitive advantage, and become part of the larger healthcare solution.

Interested in learning more about W2O? Check out our About or Healthcare pages.

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Each January, the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference brings bankers and executives to San Francisco to announce innovation, make deals and attend the many events that connect media with healthcare, digital health, biotech, pharma and technology investors.

Over the past six years, W2O has hosted an exclusive luncheon during the J.P. Morgan conference to facilitate game-changing discussions about the digital health space. This year’s event featured an all-star panel of industry leaders, who discussed key trends and important signals about the future of healthcare.

Looking back over the great discussions had and information shared, three trends stood out.

1. Collaboration fuels innovation.

J.P. Morgan has expanded from its roots of a couple hundred analysts and investors in biotech and pharma to more than 15,000 attendees. It now spans start-ups to global titans across the healthcare landscape, enveloping artificial intelligence, gene editing and bioengineering, behavioral health, telemedicine, data analytics and digital health.

With this growth, new and interesting partnerships are emerging as organizations across the ecosystem explore how to speed drug development, reduce costs and deliver a better patient experience and better care.

For Stacy Feld, Head, Johnson & Johnson Innovation her touchstone comes back to answering the right science and clinical questions that benefit consumers. During a panel focused on investment, she remarked, “The best innovations and the best ideas are just as likely to come from outside as they are from within Johnson & Johnson.”

2. Patient-centricity has new relevance.

Tying into the trend of greater collaboration, we also heard more from audiences on how they are putting patients’ needs first.

At the W2O Digital Health Luncheon, Harlan Levine, M.D., president, strategy and business ventures at City of Hope, remarked, “To get great treatment for cancer today, you really do need to treat the person as the consumer for personalized medicine.” His organization’s strategy is to employ a consumer-focused, digital approach to oncology to create a personal blueprint for every cancer.

On the payer side, organizations are focused on giving patients more choice, making accessing care easier. As Bryce Williams, vice president, lifestyle medicine at Blue Shield of California, noted, “If you really believe in empowering members, you give them more choice.”

3. Data privacy and protection concerns are still unanswered.

We know patient data drives innovation. But, despite efforts to connect, analyze and activate this data, serious concerns remain about how data is being protected, how it’s being used and who has access. With more traditional technology companies making serious inroads into health, a lack of transparency has created deep skepticism around data use without strong privacy and consumer protections.

Many consumers may not be aware that their data may be already being used. As to who is responsible, Mona Siddiqui, the chief data officer, Office of the Chief Technology Officer at U.S. Health and Human Services, commented, “Consumer education is important, but the onus is also on organizations to make sure they’re as transparent as possible around the use of our data.”

As we face the year ahead, these issues will continue to be challenges as we work to better serve the disparate needs of patients and stakeholders. As we come together to make care more affordable and accessible to more people, it is exciting to see the new partnerships, policies and solutions develop to take healthcare – in all its forms – to the next level.

Interested in learning more about W2O? Check out our About or Healthcare pages.

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W2O recently hosted our second annual, Marketing Science Summit. The purpose of this event is fairly straightforward: to create a space for pioneers in the market research, social analytics and digital marketing fields to share the latest trends in marketing science, with a focus on the healthcare and tech industries.

From leveraging to data to the evolution of AI, there were plenty of key learnings from this year’s summit. I summed up the five that stood out to me below.

1. In healthcare, we’re dealing with data that isn’t really clean, nor does it connect easily.

Liz DeMatteis, Chief Marketing Officer, Aetion made a great point about this notion. She highlighted that the quest should not be perfect data, but rather the perfect understanding of the imperfections of the data. Imperfect data can still be used to fuel effective decision making

2. There have been significant advancements in Artificial Intelligence over the past decade.

From robotics to voice recognition, AI has continued to rapidly develop according to Tom Mitchell, E. Fredkin University Professor of Machine Learning and Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. What we always wonder about is whether or not those advancements will slow? The reality is that the advancements in machine learning and AI are only going to accelerate the continued innovation in these areas.

3. Digital data can be used effectively to understand physician behaviors.

We can all agree that digital and social information serves as a really effective data source. However, in order to truly understand physician behavior, we need to triangulate multiple data sources. Audun Utengen, Chief Executive Officer of Symplur noted, it’s important that we don’t overly rely on a single source of data when we’re making decisions.

4. Usage and data collection is still in its infancy.

We still have varying stages of maturity with data, the data doesn’t always connect very easily. Additionally, we consistently are getting more and more data, there are new decisions that can be made with the data, there is new legislation and other key factors. Once we solve one potential issue another pops up, so it’s important we work together to solve these challenges.

H/T: Joerg Corsten, Global Medical Information Leader of Roche

5. Data can fuel creativity.

We at W2O talk a lot about following the data to get to the point. While we advocate and practice for data driven creativity, one point that’s worth accentuating is that data is a guide, it isn’t a vice. Thank you Ellen Gerstein, Director of Digital Content, Pfizer and Mary Michael, Vice President, Patient Advocacy and Stakeholder Management of Otsuka, for highlighting that point.

That’s a wrap for the 2019 Marketing Science Summit! Thank you to our speakers and attendees for making this event a success, we look forward to seeing you next year.

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Analytics pages.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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For those that haven’t heard about HLTH, a 6,000 person conference that promises to “Create Health’s Future,” it feels a little like if SXSW, ASCO and HIMSS decided to have a baby. The innovative event does a good job of mixing large, well-established companies like Optum, Aetna, CVS Health, Amazon, Walmart, Pfizer, Lyft and many more with hundreds of players from the digital health/startup ecosystem. HLTH also features numerous media outlets, government officials, academics and even celebrity billionaires like Mark Cuban.

What’s important about this two year old event founded by CEO and Chairman, Jonathan Weiner (he also founded well known global events, Money20/20 and Shoptalk) is that it combines companies that are well established players in health with those who are laying the foundation for a new future. For at least now, the event boasts a thousand CEOs (many are from the startup world), which obviously helps bringing a number of important players in the healthcare space to the event.

While I didn’t get to attend all the sessions, I was able to get enough of a taste of the content to see some key trends emerge.

1. Data is more critical to healthcare now than ever.

This may sound like the biggest “no duh” ever but what I found exciting is that a lot of the right people are starting to pay close attention to it. This includes the FDA, large pharma companies like Pfizer, Google (shocker), 23andMe, Walmart and numerous payer/providers.

Clearly the head of Google Health, David Feinberg, struck a chord with his quote about putting a search bar on top of electronic health records (my tweet capturing his sentiment garnered 17 retweets and 60 likes as of this writing). One of the bigger surprises to me was Principal Deputy Commissioner of the FDA, Amy Abernethy, announcing that the FDA would soon be ingesting data via an API versus PDF forms during a fireside chat with healthcare reporter, Chrissy Farr of CNBC. This is a far cry better than faxes that were once the medium of choice but hard to believe that the government is just getting to this point now in 2019.

2. Healthcare outsiders have an opportunity to fix healthcare.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks (NBA) and celebrity judge on the television show, Shark Tank, has put together a plan on how to fix healthcare. During a highly entertaining, expletive-filled conversation with former head of Medicare, Medicaid and the ACA under Obama, Andy Slavitt, Cuban exclaimed, “Right now, healthcare is so politically charged that people aren’t trying to solve problems. They’re not even trying to identify problems. They’re trying to sell what’s most politically expedient for them.” I suggest reading FierceHealthcare’s full writeup of the session here. What struck me most about this conversation is that when people like Cuban, Bill and Melinda Gates and Mark Zuckerberg/Priscilla Chan take on a cause, things get done. I don’t know as though Cuban will solve our healthcare issues anytime soon but he’s not afraid to look at bold approaches.

3. Voice technology is going to big in health.

During one of the sessions featuring Rasu Shrestha, Chief Strategy Officer of Atrium Health, Missy Krasner, Strategic Head of Partnerships, Alexa Health & Wellness at Amazon, and Jennifer Schneider, President of Livongo, spoke about how healthcare companies are starting to create HIPAA compliant “Skills” which are like apps for Amazon’s voice controlled device, Alexa. Even though this technology is still in its infancy stage, allowing older patients to re-order prescriptions, call a Lyft/Uber to take them to an appointment, remind them to take their pills/test blood sugar levels, eat healthier, etc. will be a game changer over time. The healthcare companies that figure out how to meaningfully play in this space will be winners in the long run.

4. There are A LOT of digital health startups.

Walking through the expo floor, there were literally hundreds of companies there looking to make an impression. They ran the full gamut of wellness, AI, virtual reality, data, chatbots, etc. Sadly, many will not survive to see HLTH 2020 but this is a hot space so if you are an entrepreneur, this is a great time to focus on health.

Bringing this point home, 23andMe CEO, Anne Wojcicki, astutely noted during her featured session that “scale is critical” when it comes to the digital health space. She noted that over the last 11 years, 23andMe had amassed over 10 million customers with over 80% opting into their research panel.

5. Retailers want to bring health closer to the patient.

Head of health and wellness transformation at Walmart, Marcus Osborne, did a virtual walk through of one of their new clinics in Georgia showing all of the services customers could access. Given that Walmart is putting many of their clinics in Superstores which stay open 24/7, access to affordable healthcare is about to get a lot closer and easier. Other companies like CVS Health, Walgreens and even BestBuy are taking similar approaches to offering healthcare in store or in the latter case, creating a “Geek Squad” like offering where they could deliver services right to a patient’s doorstep.

There are at least a dozen other key themes I’ve missed in this recap but these were some of the most critical observations from the conference. To see more of the action, check out the HLTH2019 hashtag (I am proud to admit that I made it into the top 75 Twitter contributors at the event according to Symplur).

If you work in healthcare, my advice is to plan to attend HTLH 2020. It’s a great event and is only going to get better.

Interested in learning more about W2O? Check out our About or Healthcare pages.

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If you were to ask a marketer or a communicator today to define their role you might likely hear one or all of the following responses:

My job is to protect the reputation of the company.

The primary function of marketing and communications is to build the brand

It is very important that we focus marketing and communications on generating sales

It’s all digital.  So, we must conflate several roles when it comes to translating data into insight to better connect with customers

Obviously, there are several variations within each of those statements, but if we were to simplify it even further the traditional role of marketing and communications is to protect the reputation of the company, build the brand and grow the business. This has been the case for decades, even as the number of channels they use in order to do those three things has proliferated at an incredible rate of speed.

But that was yesterday.  In 2019, the world is officially digital.  Customers and employees direct the relationship. As such, reputation, while important, is no longer the measure of organizational sustainability.

One of the reasons is that channels have grown exponentially. It is not hyperbole to say that digital media (in all formats) has fundamentally changed how we reach our customers. Not only that, it has fundamentally disrupted business model after business model. In the last 15 years, 52% of companies listed on the S&P 500 have disappeared. It is predicted that, by 2027, 75% of those companies currently listed will also disappear. One would imagine the companies that have disappeared had marketers and communicators focusing on protecting reputation, building the business and the brand, right?

So, if that’s the case, why are they no longer in business?

It’s our perspective that in a social/digital world companies that are not connecting or engaging with customers, consumers, employees meaning they lost relevance with the people who could shape the brand and move the business. As digital consumers, which is almost all of us these days, we know we are constantly bombarded with content from all sorts of companies. Keeping track of it all is next to impossible, unless what those companies are delivering to you is relevant to your interests. The companies that maintain a high level of relevance with their key stakeholders are constantly mindful of closing the gap between what they want to say and what their stakeholders want to hear.

As part of this year’s Chicago Ideas Week, we wanted to further explore this concept with two companies, Horizon Therapeutics and Walgreens, that excelled in driving relevancy with its key stakeholders. Representing these two companies were Kelly Rothschild Jansen, Director of Corporate Communications & Content Strategy for Horizon, and Suzanne Barston, Director of Digital Communications and Corporate Storytelling for Walgreens. During the session, both shared their perspectives on how each of their organizations is driving relevancy and gave tangible tips for other companies who may be just starting their relevance journey.

While it’s always difficult to distill a 60-minute presentation down to a few takeaways, there were three key themes from Suzanne and Kelly that bubbled to the surface:

Suzanne’s Key Takeaways:

  1. In order to be relevant to key stakeholders, organizations need to let of the things that could go wrong. If you are waiting for the perfect moment, you are likely missing an opportunity to test and learn what your stakeholders find relevant.
  2. Driving relevancy is about understanding the data, specifically understanding what your organization is putting out into the market versus what your stakeholders want to hear.
  3. For companies that are looking to be more relevant, it’s about identifying the intersection between reputation and relevance.

Kelly’s Key Takeaways: 

  1. When we think about driving corporate relevancy, the critical things that matter are authenticity, connection and storytelling.
  2. Organizations need to be thinking about relevance as a journey. Things like creative, bold and compelling storytelling take time to develop.
  3. If there were one key to driving to driving relevance it would be telling stories.

Walgreens and Horizon are two organizations that really understand what it takes to be relevant. If your organization is just starting its relevance journey, you would be well-served to connect with Kelly and Suzanne to get their tips!

Want to learn more about W2O? Check out our About page and Service page.

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*A Swiss Chat

As the ‘first W2O employee on the ground’ in our Zurich office, it is my pleasure to bring you up to speed with recent developments here.

The workplace opened this year, so it was important that we made our mark on the city.

To this end, in September 2019, we held our inaugural W2O EMEA Marketing Science Summit, which successfully brought together 40 of the brightest minds across science, marketing, and communications to discuss using data to market products and ideas.

My Journey to Zurich

But first, let me tell you about the route that brought me back to my country of origin. I was born in Geneva and educated in different European countries. An internship with the World Health Organization (WHO) nurtured my interest in healthcare. I started at W2O in New York then did a short-term rotation in London. Both were stepping stones to my return to Switzerland and specifically the amazing city of fondue and Toblerone – ZURICH!

With Switzerland as the global hub for many international pharma/biotech companies, it was important to establish a base close to our clients. The recruitment of Fenna Gloggner, a Senior Group Director in the Insights and Analytics practice, whose experience lies in Swiss pharma, will strengthen W2O’s links.

My Chat with Fenna Gloggner

What is your background?

Fenna: My academic background is in politics and economics, but my career has taken me firmly into the pharmaceutical world. I moved from my native Germany to the UK to attend university and became a trainee market researcher at GfK Health in London. After a few years learning the ropes, I made another move across the continent to Switzerland into a client-side role at Novartis in Basel.

At Novartis, I worked in various roles in global commercial insights, including primary market research, business analytics, forecasting, and competitive intelligence. A lot of my work was in cardiology and cardiovascular health, and I am still fascinated by the miracle that is the human heart.

After 10 great years at Novartis, I felt like a change of pace, so I moved to one of my former partner agencies, HRW, into a business development role. HRW is a pharmaceutical market research agency with some very innovative solutions in qualitative research and behavioural science, so the move also gave me an opportunity to refresh my primary market research skills. I also developed a passion for behavioural science and how it can enhance product or communication strategies.

It was about a year ago that I first heard about W2O when I got chatting to Laura Mucha (W2O Managing Director Analytics) after a conference. We stayed in touch, and with every conversation there seemed to be more points of connection, so I am excited to be joining the company now.

What are you hoping to bring to W2O and in particular the Swiss office?

Fenna: I’ve been very impressed by what I learned about W2O’s digital analytics offering – a lot of things that I wish I had had access to when I was working industry-side! I think there will be a real opportunity to complement this with my experience in primary insights. My work in the past has always been at a global level, so hopefully that will be a good fit, especially for the EMEA team.

Another thing I will be able to bring to W2O is my industry experience. In addition to working client-side for the majority of my career, I recently completed an MBA in Pharma Business Administration. Studying part-time alongside a full-time agency job was an intense but very rewarding experience. I learned a lot and was able to connect a lot of dots – the programme covered everything from strategic management, finance, and pharma law to development, marketing and markets access and pharmacovigilance. A lot of things that were always a bit vague to me in terms of how the various pharma functions connect – especially outside of the commercial setting – are a lot clearer to me now. I look forward to sharing what I know and learned with anyone who doesn’t yet feel fully up to speed with what is going on inside pharma.

Finally, it will be great to have a real presence on the ground for our Swiss clients: With the office in Zurich and me working from Basel for part of the week, we will be able to have a lot of meetings face to face instead of remotely, which obviously helps with building strong relationships. For most of the local Basel clients, I can be at their offices in under 30 minutes – something that they (and I) have certainly made use of in the past…

Nina: What is your connection to Switzerland?

Fenna: A very personal one: My husband and children are Swiss, and I am a proud naturalised Swiss citizen. I have a large and wonderful Swiss extended family and we like to spend time out in nature: hiking in summer; skiing in winter. Switzerland is a beautiful country and offers a great quality of life – I still feel privileged to be able live here and hope many of our colleagues will come to Zurich to work with us and experience Switzerland for themselves.

We’re looking forward to developing our Swiss office and continuing to host the annual summit in Switzerland.

Merci vilmal (thanks a lot) for reading my blog!

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This week we’re kicking off W2O Days at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (#UW2O)! Modeled after the success of our Syracuse University Social Commerce Days, this inaugural two-day event is focused on educating students about healthcare marketing and communications by connecting them with industry leaders and having some the best and brightest minds instructing them. One of bright those minds includes Hemant Shah, Director, School of Journalism and Mass Communication; Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In his interview below, he discusses the importance of bringing industry, agencies, and academia together, and outlines how journalism has evolved over the past 30 years.

You’ve served as the director of the School of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin, Madison for five years. Tell us about your approach to teaching journalism and mass communication in today’s environment?

Hemant: I emphasize that Journalism and Mass Communication is liberal arts degree, so that while we provide solid training in communication fundamentals we insist that students also develop their skills in critical thinking, careful data analysis, and innovative problem solving all with attention to ethical communication practice.

According to your bio, you joined the school’s faculty back in 1990. What changes in journalism have you seen over the last 30 years?

Hemant: Journalism today is a multi-platform, multi-media, around-the-clock enterprise these days, whether you are a print, television or strictly online venue. Not all news outlets have adapted to the new fast-paced journalism world with its changed economic model emphasizing clicks and online ads. But at its core, journalism at its best still is about  reporting facts, holding the powerful accountable and revealing the truth.

Talk about the importance of joint programs that bring industry, and agencies like ours, and academia together.

Hemant: Students get a glimpse at the “real world” of agency work in the health comm arena. Faculty who are doing cutting edge health communication work will see potential for application of their work. You will get to meet our incredible students.

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This week we’re kicking off W2O Days at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (#UW2O)! Modeled after the success of our Syracuse University Social Commerce Days, this inaugural two-day event is focused on educating students about healthcare marketing and communications by connecting them with industry leaders and having some the best minds teach them . One of those minds includes Debra Pierce, Faculty Associate, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In the Q&A below, she discusses her method for teaching journalism and mass communications, shares the one skill students need to have, and shares why she’s excited for #UW2O. Check out her interview.

You’ve been an instructor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (aka the J-School) for quite some time.  Tell us about your approach to teaching journalism and mass communication in today’s environment.

Debra: I take a professional, hands on approach in the classroom. Students are put into agency teams, where they work together to solve real life business challenges from real clients. My hands on approach includes studying recent industry case examples and the latest trends in communications. I think this professional approach has paid off for our students upon graduation; employers tell us that our students are ready to hit the ground running and make real contributions to their businesses, right out of the gates.

As someone who has worked in agencies and in-house you’ve been on the front lines of many changes in the industry.  What do you think is the biggest change that you’re trying to share with your students?

Debra: AI has already had such a large impact on the communications industry, and it is going to continue to evolve. We study and discuss how AI has helped communications so far, and how we can positively augment it going forward.

What do you think is the most important skill students need coming out of school today?  

Debra: I think employers are seeking candidates who can multi-task across a wide variety of forms of communication. Multi-tasking requires being able to work on multiple projects at once and learning how to prioritize – and how to manage upwards regarding time constraints, if needed. As to the forms of communication, being able to effectively tell a story that provides a humanizing touch is important – and students need to so that across a wide variety of media – social, web, video, long form, etc.

Talk about the importance of joint programs that bring industry, and agencies like ours, and academia together.

Debra: It’s a win-win-win, really. Our students benefit because they can learn from the best in the industry, while W20 can get exposed to the next generation of communicators from a globally recognized program like ours. Our faculty are some of the top health communication researchers in the field, as well; they get the opportunity to showcase their research, and understand how their research can best be applied to the industry.

What are you looking forward to most about this week?

Debra: I can’t wait to see the excitement percolate throughout the department – it’s going to be contagious! We have several events set up where the W20 team and our students will be getting together – interviews, presentations, and networking, for example. Our students are thrilled to learn from some of the best in the industry!

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Ready or not, here it comes. The transformative potential of data and marketing science has reached the healthcare industry and – according to what we learnt at our EMEA Marketing Science Summit in Zurich last Wednesday – we’d better shape up.

“Digital integration is the number one priority in healthcare,” came the resounding pronouncement from our keynote speaker, Dr Jamil El-Imad, Chief Scientist at It’s a sentiment that we certainly believe in.

So, in that light, what can take away from our 2019 Summit? Here are five key learnings.

  1. Connecting the Data Dots

Yes, data sources in the healthcare industry are siloed even within organizations, but that shouldn’t limit what you can achieve. Take these two innovative examples discussed at the event:

The trailblazing Swiss Brain Data Bank (SBDB) is accelerating scientific progress by enabling researchers to collaborate across digital databanks to improve diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders.

VirtaMed is transforming medical education with ‘flight simulators’ for surgeons. These simulators allow surgeons to train in a controlled, virtual environment and receive data-evidenced performance feedback. 

  1. Measure Selectively and Manage Expectations

With so much data, it’s tempting to ‘measure everything’. But this can be hugely counterproductive: it’s best to focus on actions and outcomes. Take these learnings from sport, for instance. Mo Wootten, a Sport Intelligence Analyst at UK Sports, discussed what they found from collecting sleep data. Not only was it not always useful to athletes, who already know if they don’t sleep as well before a major competition, but for some people it can be detrimental and a source of anxiety.

Jörg Corsten, Digital Medical Engagement Principal at Roche, warned against exaggerated expectations of AI and machine learning, reminding us that “we don’t have a general AI –nowhere we can just put in all the data and out comes the right answer.” Put another way, AI today resembles Siri – good at solving task-based problems – rather than HAL, the sentient AI from 2001: Space Odyssey.

  1. Acknowledge Your Bias

Our experiences and beliefs create unconscious biases, which, in turn, shape the way we see the world. We need to remain alert to potential bias in our datasets: metrics, tools and algorithms are created by people, so are vulnerable to the same foibles and biases that affect us.

Mo Wootten shared an example from the US criminal justice system, which integrates data models to predict the likelihood of re-offending. Tellingly, the algorithms used were shown to be racially biased.

The (big) data we have access to today can help us mitigate both problems: by triangulating from different data sources and perspectives – and consciously acknowledging our own cognitive biases – we can arrive at powerful insights.

  1. Blend Data and Storytelling – but Keep it Simple

Data-driven storytelling has the power to cut through information overload. Underpinning our stories with the right data creates relevance, but it is no easy feat. As Sam Knowles, Founder and Managing Director of Insight Agents, put it: “meaningfully bringing together the fire-and-ice worlds of storytelling, data and science is an art form.”

During the summit, Knowles shared his rules for compelling, data-driven storytelling as outlined in his book Narrative by Numbers. He highlighted that it is the combination of narrative skill and intelligent interrogation of data sources that creates real impact and, ultimately, influence.

So how do we do this? By keeping our story simple, being selective with our data and tapping into emotion.

  1. Get Ready for What’s Next

Digital data is increasingly fundamental to healthcare decision-making. In medical training, for instance, some European countries already embed digital performance data generated by virtual practical tests into certification and continuous education.

But not everyone is ready to embrace our data-rich environment. For some, the integration of real-world data helps to optimise healthcare (e.g. in disease registries) but others perceive it as challenging ‘clean’ (and controllable) clinical trial data.

Data privacy is not going to go away. Leaders in our field will be those who see the upside, rather than the challenge. There is an opportunity cost of doing nothing and falling behind.

Thinking this way, we may then find there are digital solutions already doing things that seem at first impossible, like reading facial expressions without compromising anonymity and data protection. This kind of solution already exists: it is used by the SBDB to conform with data privacy legislation while enabling ground-breaking, collaborative research at scale.

The 2019 Zurich Summit illustrated that it will take creativity and courage to make the most of our data-rich environment. It is when human brains and digital data connect to tell meaningful stories that strategy-changing insights can be unlocked. As one speaker noted, “data is a servant to decision-making, it should never be the master”.

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