Transforming an Information Focused Company into a Healthcare Analytics Powerhouse


Everyone knows data is king, but data alone is not enough. You can have a world of information at your fingertips, but if you don't have the tools to make sense of it, or the ability to glean meaningful insights from it, you can't compete in today's data-driven marketplace.

At Symphony Health, we provide comprehensive data and powerful analytic tools to help healthcare professionals understand the full market lifecycle of pharmaceutical therapies. Our comprehensive database of fully integrated information captures physician, payer, and patient activity. Our Business Intelligence (BI) Solutions offer insight into everything from predictive market analysis to patient influence, physician prescribing, pharmacy fulfillment, payer reimbursement, and sales compensation. 

Symphony Health is one of the leading providers of healthcare information in the pharmaceutical and biosciences industry. Our data set comprises over 286 million de-identified patients. We process billions of transactions every year, including prescriptions and claims. Our datasets and solutions help turn our customers' questions into answers, answers into decisions, and decisions into success.

Our Technology and Analytics Transform Data into Insights

I head Symphony's Health Technology Solutions (HTS) practice. We provide technology solutions and consulting services in the areas of data integration, analytic capabilities, and cloud-based commercial marts, warehouses and lakes. I joined the company as VP of Product Management in 2013, with a focus on creating new technology and analytical solutions, and started the HTS practice three years later to build upon the success of these new market offerings. 

In my time here, I've seen the company shift its focus from primarily providing data to offering a comprehensive portfolio of technology, analytics, and BI solutions. Health Technology Solutions makes and markets three inter-related products: 

Symphony HealthCloud® is our cloud-based information management platform. It provides data lakes, data warehousing, commercial data marts, analytical sandboxes, and data management tools. Symphony HealthCloud integrates the most comprehensive and interconnected sources of healthcare data, which includes our own Integrated Dataverse®, as well as information from clients and industry third parties. 

Synoma® is a HIPAA compliant de-identification solution that allows Symphony to track individual patients across their healthcare journey in a de-identified manner. It provides the ability to link and integrate traditional claims and prescription information with clinically rich data such as lab tests and results, electronic medical records (EMR), and patient registries, all while protecting patient anonymity, thus ensuring HIPAA compliance. 

Vantage™ Applications are comprehensive suites of cloud-based data mining and BI solutions. They provide instant access to key performance metrics and are configurable to a client’s individual needs, enabling rapid analysis and decision making.  

Moving from Data Silos to Audience-Specific Insights 

Vantage Applications grew out of conversations with our customers. As we expanded from being a data provider to becoming a technology provider, we reached out to our clients and asked them how they used their data. 

Their biggest issue arose from the fact that our products were siloed. When we sold a data product, we overlaid an analytic tool that allowed them to explore the information it contained. If they purchased a second or third data product, each of these shipped with a separate dedicated tool. We needed a universal application that allowed them to consult and consolidate multiple data sets. 

At the same time, these tools provided precious little insight. Although we offered a few basic BI applications, we delivered the bulk of our data products in the form of Excel files that our customers could then filter. 

We Needed a Partner to Build Better BI Solutions

With the healthcare industry embracing big data and increasingly relying on BI to improve business practices and enhance decision making, we knew Symphony needed to find new solutions for our clients. Fortunately, our leadership had background in AI and IT, and paved the way for our transformation.

At the time, we considered striking out on our own. We looked at building a web stack that provided BI capabilities in-house but quickly realized it would be cost-prohibitive and may not meet our immediate needs. And so, we started looking at potential BI partners. 

We had a longstanding partnership with Qlik and had used their QlikView platform to power some of the basic BI tools referenced earlier. At the time, this was still their primary product. Qlik Sense was just around the corner, but the company presented us with a detailed technology roadmap showing the innovations to come, and this is what sealed the deal. 

Reinventing Business Intelligence

Like Symphony, Qlik was reinventing itself. At the same time, Qlik Sense used the same engine that powered QlikView, which meant my team didn't have to master a whole new technology. While we needed to learn a new interface and its added functionalities, the underlying technology, data, and business processes remained the same. 

Additionally, Qlik took an accommodating approach to the evaluation process. They helped us with the proof of concept and treated the exercise as a partnership instead of an opportunity to make a sales pitch. It was a refreshing change from the typical follow-up to an RFP. 

On top of its next-generation UI, Qlik Sense offers improved natural language processing, and advanced report formatting and distribution functionalities in the form of its NPrinting platforms. We've also seen under-the-hood improvements, and their team is always coming to us with new features that we can pass on to our customers. I feel like we're dealing with a partner and not just a vendor. 

Cloud-Enabled BI Tools That Yield Better, Faster Insights

With Qlik Sense as our foundation, we rolled out four cloud-enabled audience-specific suites as part of our Vantage Applications platform. They provide instant access to key performance metrics, data visualizations, and predictive analytics that enhance situation analyses and speed decision making.

Our Managed Markets, Brand, Corporate, and Sales Vantage suites allow our customers to evaluate the payer, market, and competitive landscapes, and to strategize and forecast their business using current data and real-time visualizations. They can react in the present because we make new data available the next business day, and they're no longer waiting weeks or months for the numbers to come in.

At our end, Symphony's consultants can set up and customize a Vantage application for a customer in a week or two, and then start feeding it data. 

Our consultants no longer need months or years to figure out how customers are going to use their data. We don't have to worry about evaluating their internal processes, hooking into their data warehouses, or going through requirements sessions to plan their new solution. With Vantage and Synoma, we can say, "Here's the information you need. We can set you up in a couple of weeks." That's revolutionary.  

Data ≠ insights. To act rapidly, you’ll first need to make sense of your data. @Qlik

The positive impact on our clients is significant. In an industry like pharmaceuticals, time to market can make or break your business. Their analysts make forecasts on sales, but all that goes out the window as soon as the drug launches. Real-time market data allows them to make adjustments on the fly. If you can’t act rapidly on the signals from the market, it can cost tens of millions of dollars. That’s the difference between static data and true insights. 

Looking Forward to Our Next Transformation

Symphony Health has seen the value of our expansion from just data to the inclusion of technology and analytics. Our Vantage Applications revenue has skyrocketed over 25X, and we continue to innovate. 

Our next goal is international expansion. We were recently acquired by PRA Health Sciences, an organization that operates in 85 countries. In recent weeks, we've been talking with a client about providing solutions for global markets beyond the U.S. It's the beginning of the next chapter of our growth, and Qlik will be a major part of it.