Yesterday, Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania-based IMS Health announced its acquisition of Seattle-based analytics startup Appature. Both companies are in the health sciences data space, but come to that arena with rather different, and complimentary, approaches.
Analytics functionality is most useful when it's integrated into vertical market and line-of-business applications. While technologies like Hadoop and R are terrific on their own, and while their integration with analysis and data discovery clients, from Excel to Tableau, is even better, embedding analytics functionality in operational applications is what makes it most effective.
In certain industries where use of data is, or is becoming, culturally ingrained, like health sciences, the integration and embedding of analytics technology into operational applications is gaining traction. And the resulting gravitational pull is what's behind the merger of IMS and Appature.
IMS has long been in the business of procuring and aggregating depersonalized healthcare data, including prescription transactions, patient profiles, provider profiles, and insurance claims, and making that data available for analysis.
Appature, meanwhile, uses technologies that we talk about here quite a bit: Hadoop, NoSQL database Redis and relational databases including Oracle and MySQL. But instead of exposing that technology as raw infrastructure, Appature has used it to build a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that ties together campaign management for pharmaceutical companies, along with the data acquisition, cleansing and analytics necessary to monitor those campaigns in real-time and optimize the design of subsequent campaigns.
Pharma marketing's active ingredient: data
The folks I spoke with at Appature tell me that IMS manages over 17 petabytes of data which, they say, is more data than the IRS has. Whether or not the last bit's true, 17PB is certainly a lot of data, and the company has been tracking this data for a long time.
That data is more important now though. Pharmaceuticals marketing traditionally has been carried out by individual reps in the field, working one-on-one with doctors, in their offices. But managed care has made doctors busier, leaving less time for such meetings, and new regulations limit reps' interactions with doctors in any case. So direct marketing, optimized by analytics, has become indispensable and Pharma tech marketing dollars are shifting from CRM and ERP to analytics.
With all that in mind, why not take Big Data that's been tracked for quite some time and leverage it from Appature's more recent-vintage SaaS Big Data analytics platform? That makes a lot of sense and underscores why Big Data is more than fad; in reality, it's a new brand for something that's not at all brand new. This merger seems based on that very fact.