If you were to think about big data in healthcare, chances are that you’d picture numerical data. The Covid-19 pandemic only reinforced this, with global populations poring over a variety of daily figures. However, our latest Spotlight Series webinar highlighted the immense, largely untapped value of qualitative data in the health sector.
A quintet of healthcare insights experts talked about the importance of big data in healthcare, the challenges and opportunities qualitative data presents, and offered their own use cases detailing how they’d uncovered actionable insights by analyzing text data.
Relative Insight’s resident health specialist, Senior Account Manager Rauri Hadlington, was joined by Katy Irving, Global Head of Behavioural Science, and Lucy Saunders, Director, both from HRW Healthcare, Avant Healthcare’s Analytics Strategy & Insights Sage, Andrew Welp, and Alban de Courville, Senior Manager, Business Insights, Medtronic, for the discussion.
This piece summarizes key takeaways from the session. If you’d like to watch the webinar in its entirety, you can do so on the video below.
The power of social media as a health data source
“The need to understand, beyond a simple qualitative analysis, of what’s going on in the market on digital and social channels really led to us needing to build our own way of designing and measuring the social world.”
Andrew’s statement highlights the opportunity social data offers for healthcare brands and agencies to enhance their knowledge. However, he also discussed the challenges of analyzing social data – and why Relative Insight offers a scaleable way to delve deeper into online conversations sourced by social listening tools.
Andrew recounted a use case involving analyzing discussions around health congresses. He outlined how he’d collect social conversations from before, during and after these events to compare debate around specific therapeutic areas against the congress as a whole. This analysis helped the agency to understand trends in therapeutic treatments, what healthcare professionals thought of these trends, and how its clients’ therapies were discussed in comparison to their competitors.
“We get to perform these very robust, insightful analyses and are able to provide high-level, inferential insights to our clients,” Andrew said. He continued: “They’re able to pivot their conversations on what their market share will look like based on this new data. Relative Insight allows us to scale this in a way where we can perform these robust, inferential analyses of text data very quickly.”
Big data in healthcare includes patient and practitioner feedback
Our speakers also highlighted how survey and feedback data contained crucial information for health brands and agencies. Alban talked about Medtronic’s net promoter score (NPS) surveys – sent to patients and healthcare teams who use its medical devices to monitor and treat diabetes.
He noted that prior to using Relative Insight’s survey analysis software, the NPS responses simply sat unused in Excel files. As part of the company’s drive to derive business intelligence from free text data, it used the responses as a test of text analytics.
Alban talked about how this analysis changed how Medtronic went about analyzing healthcare data. “The way we were using free text data was really reactive,” he said. “The challenge for us was to move from being reactive to being proactive.”
For example, while Medtronic flags device quality issues using data and feedback from its support teams, Alban discussed how it was using its NPS analysis as an early warning sign, while the nature of responses also signal what sticks in users’ minds. The success of its initial healthcare analysis has led to Medtronic considering expanding the text data sources it uses, such as social data.
Distilling health sector trends using unstructured data
Katy and Lucy presented HRW’s findings from an investigation into changes on vaccine conversations over a period of four years in the US and the UK. Using social data prior to, during and after the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, the agency sought to track how perceptions of vaccination had changed over time, plus how discussions on social platforms had influenced people’s perceptions of vaccines.
Lucy highlighted that, unsurprisingly, the pandemic had led to a vast increase in the topic of vaccines. However, she also noted that the agency’s analysis uncovered trends around the memeification and politicization of the topic. These fascinating insights have been summarized in a thought leadership report which the agency will use to support its clients, as Katy outlines:
“We’re sending the white paper out to clients to offer information, particularly those in the vaccine space. This is very relevant to their everyday life and they can learn how the evolution of the discourse around vaccines has been influenced by Covid. It’s also a forum for us to talk about the psychological implications of the nature of these linguistic insights, the different ways audiences are using this language and what that reveals about their state of mind.”
The next step in healthcare text analytics
Finally, our speakers touched upon the launch of . This new tool offers healthcare insights teams greater precision when analyzing medical-specific text data by using a specialist health lexicon. For example, Andrew discussed ways in which the new platform would expand what he’d seek to achieve with text data:
“With the emergence of the health lexicon and how much more confident we can be about the thematics coming out of this platform, I can see us utilizing this as a way of driving content development. It can help us understand what makes a successful tweet and what makes a healthcare practitioner want to like a specific piece of content versus a different piece of content. We can then design a playbook for social media and content strategy.”