Updated January 19, 2022
Data mining is everywhere. It’s used in online stores to drill down into consumers’ transactions. In social media, companies like Facebook mine data to adjust advertising. It's even been tested in fighting wildfires and in automotive development.
Although healthcare has been slow to adopt data mining, it has a valid reason. Done incorrectly, data mining can run afoul of laws and regulations that protect the security and privacy of consumers. Fines can run upwards of millions of dollars and ruin reputations.
However, healthcare marketing can reach next-level efficiency by employing data-mining technologies responsibly. Following a few precautions, you can identify inefficiencies and improve care while cutting costs.
What is data mining?
Data mining is sorting through large databases using algorithms to gather novel information. The patterns and insights discovered can be used to improve business operations.
Data mining isn’t new. We’ve been doing it for decades. In fact, neural networks that can uncover patterns in data have existed in theory for over 50 years. Advances in technology have provided large computers available to crunch the numbers.
Today we can reach new levels of insight thanks to ultra-powerful computers and extensive databases. Forecasts and diagnoses are now more accurate than ever before.
A treasure trove of data is available in patient records. Healthcare data exists in many forms — clinical, financial, administrative, and insurance claims.
Data of particular concern to regulators includes electronic health records (EHR) that contain:
- Demographics and contact information
- Relevant medical data, such as patient history, medication, and allergies
The federal government protects this data because it’s highly sensitive. By law, it must be kept secure and private. As a result, many citizens have concerns about how it could be used for marketing.
The dark side of data mining
“Over half of healthcare systems have been breached the past couple of years, and the cost . . . can literally wipe out healthcare system profitability and margins.”
— Greg Moore.
Here are three stark observations:
- Data needs to be in a standard format to get the most from it.
- The majority of the world’s data goes unanalyzed because it’s unorganized.
- Many healthcare organizations still struggle with data planning and proper data governance.
Leading figures in healthcare have big expectations and big worries. Many predict that data mining and machine learning will only continue to grow in significance over the next few years. With it, the potential opportunities for healthcare uses will also continue to grow. With data mining, new diagnostic applications are possible. For example, data mining could help identify cancers that the human eye can’t detect. It could also be used to share early data with doctors to prevent disease or to combat deadly outbreaks through modeling.
However, there are downsides. People question how information should be used. It's one thing for health companies to use your sensitive health data to design better drugs. But, what about using it to set insurance rates, market strategies, or make a profit? If those companies are hacked, who will be responsible for your data?
Data laws protect the consumer
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is the key legislation regulating data privacy and security in healthcare. This set of laws has heavy penalties for those not acting on data security and privacy. For example, Merck & Company paid out $275 million after a ransomware attack.
Under the law, both the health provider and its business associates are liable.
Business associates are any businesses associated with the provider that handle or store protected health information (PHI). They include software manufacturers, internet providers, and cloud hosting services, among many others. Therefore, you should make your business associates aware of the potential risks and benefits of data mining.
How do you safely leverage data mining?
In marketing, many organizations are already using data, such as EHR and insurance claim data. This information is de-identified, meaning that any personally identifying information is removed. Marketers then use this population-level data to make decisions about where, when, and whom to target. The market for this kind of healthcare data and analytics is predicted to grow from 29.1 Billion in 2021 to nearly 130 Billion in 2028
If you’re new to data mining, consider these three steps to get started:
- Manage and secure the data you already have. Most businesses already have a wealth of usable information. Verify the integrity of your current data, and then adopt guidelines and frameworks to guide your data program. HITRUST is one example of a widely recognized regulatory framework provider.
- Decide on your end goals. Too many people approach data mining with a mindset of “collect everything, let the computer do the work.” Rather, focus on a question. For example, "What’s the forecast for our lead generation based on our past marketing efforts?” Create a hypothesis based on what you expect to find, then test it.
- Present data for action. How do you convert your complex analysis into simple actions? Decide on how best to present your findings and to whom. Some leaders prefer in-depth reports. Others might prefer a short infographic.
The skills involved in data analytics are complex and might require outside expertise. If you have capable, in-house analysts, you could also opt for a Software-as-a-Service platform. However, recall that HIPAA requires you keep all PHI secure. To avoid fines, clearly identify all business associates involved in data mining. Then, have them sign a business associate agreement before gaining access to your data.
The benefits of data mining in healthcare marketing
As technologies grow and data capabilities improve, the pressure to do more with your current resources will increase. Sales reps need data in real time to tailor their pitches.
Rather than replace sales rep visits, use data mining in your sales system to enhance your in-person deals. Precise data-led insights from software platforms can empower reps to work better face-to-face.
All-in-one data mining platforms can help you:
- put together enrollment kits for the coming year
- facilitate agent marketing with hundreds of channel partners
- automate compliance measures
Data visualizations, dashboards, and automated reports are essential to transparency. They help leaders find where marketing costs have their best impact and where to cut.
Contact us or visit our Business Intelligence Module page today to see how our platform delivers these tools and this vision for some of the biggest healthcare companies.