This is the second installment of our blog series that focuses on the world of data in an era of rapid digital transformation. In our first installment, we provided macro considerations for health marketers when selecting a data provider.
Thanks to unique NPI numbers, every healthcare professional (HCP) in the U.S. is individually identifiable. As a result, NPI-level HCP data is abundantly available to health marketers, with suppliers competing mostly on comprehensiveness of coverage (i.e. percent of universe covered) and robustness of online and offline data variables associated with the NPI (i.e. how much do I know about the professional).
But differences in HCP data go beyond scale and scope. Data suppliers vary widely on type, quality, and usability of their data. To understand where your data supplier stands, here are some areas to dig deeper, and questions to ask:
1. Type of NPI Data
The NPI, or National Provider Identifier, number is a 10-digit numerical identifier used to identify an individual provider or a health care entity. It is managed by the CMS, and is used for Medicare / Medicaid claims processing. It doesn’t change with time, so it’s a fairly failsafe way to identify each individual professional.
But what most people don’t know is that there are two types of healthcare providers in terms of NPIs, Type 1 and Type 2. Individual providers get a Type 1 NPI, while practices or organizations are given a Type 2 NPI. An organization may have subparts that each have their own NPI.
Which NPI you should use to identify and reach your physicians depends on whom you represent and/or what you’re trying to communicate. Type 2 NPIs are more relevant for payor-related products or services because, being at the organizational- or payee-level, they give you an accurate representation of practice level claims and practice patterns. If you’re a product manufacturer and need to understand individual-level physician preferences and behaviors, Type 1 NPIs will be more useful.
2. Source of the HCP Data
Data suppliers build their HCP databases and associated opt-ins by pulling from several different sources. They may use physician surveys, email marketing, publisher data, and/or may even scrape social media or databases to append to the data they get from the NPI registry or the AMA.
While an amalgamation of data sources is expected, indeed recommended, your rule of thumb should be that the closer the sources are to the HCP themself, the more reliable the data.
Dig into the data sources to understand where your data supplier gets their HCP data. Your goal should be to get person-level opt-in data from as direct and as close to the physician as possible.
3. NPI Validation and Verification
While NPI numbers don’t change, physicians move. They change practices. They add skills and certifications. Some even change specialties. Or they may decide to opt out on any given day. These changes are not automatically reflected in the NPI database. So how does your data supplier keep up with these changes?
Data suppliers have multiple verification approaches available to them, such as proactive outreach to the physician or practice to make sure the information is accurate, active usage of the data to ensure validity, or triangulation with other data sources.
You need to be confident that the data you’re buying is accurate, up to date and has the appropriate opt-in for your intended use. Ask the data supplier if their data is verified, how, and how often. And beware of just one verification step: It’s rarely enough to catch all updates across all covered HCPs. You should be looking for multiple sources of verification, ideally updated every 24 hours.
4. Informed Consent
Examine the opt-in consent attached to the HCP database to find out how “informed” the consent is. What’s the level of knowledge of the provider:
- Does the provider know that they are giving consent?
- Do they know what they are opting into, i.e. what their data is going to be used for?
- Do they know who is going to be using their data?
While not legally required in many states, a best practice for consent is that the opt-in process explicitly names every organization that will be using the data, what data is being collected, and in clear, simple terms, every purpose they will be using the data for.
Having accurate data isn’t enough. It needs to be usable, and yield results.
Let’s say a physician is associated with the email address email@example.com. You know who the physician is, you know their practice, and you have accurately identified an email address that’s actually associated with the practice. But in this example, it’s a generic email which the physician rarely, if ever, checks.
Or let’s say you reach the physician but he / she does not, and has never, responded to your messages. The result: higher campaign waste, lower performance results and a bad customer experience.
Make sure you’re buying addressable data: that you’re reaching real, known and active HCPs, and that you know enough about them to craft relevant experiences that are mutually beneficial.
Make sure the HCP data is available on the platforms you’re looking to activate the data from, and in a format accessible for your marketing goal.
For example, if you are looking to simply activate a HCP segment in a DSP without the NPI-level attribution, an aggregated segment of cookies and device IDs would suffice. But if you are planning on running 1:1 NPI level reporting, make sure your data supplier can provide the appropriate opt-in, scale, onboarding, matching and reporting to support your attribution needs.
In summary, here are questions you should be asking your HCP data provider:
- How well are you matched to Type (1 or 2) NPIs to reach my universe?
- Where does your data come from?
- What’s your verification process and schedule?
- How informed are the HCPs about the opt-in they’re providing?
- How addressable is your data?
- How accessible is your data?
What’s Next in This Blog Series
Coming up next in our blog series about the world of health data in an era of rapid digital transformation are key considerations for health marketers when selecting a consumer data supplier.
At PulsePoint, we use real-world data in real-time to optimize campaign performance and drive ROI. To learn more about our data and technology solutions, and how they can support your business and its goals, contact us to request a demo.