To remain competitive, pharmaceutical companies need to “think beyond the pill.” In an era of “me-too” drugs many companies see their marketing USP as the bundle of services they provide with the pill rather than the pill itself.

Yet there are more analytics today that can be used to identify an opportunity for marketers to use their marketing to better drive sales. That means expanding from the traditional focus on therapeutic interventions—whether going upstream into diagnosis and prevention and wellness activities, or downstream into treatment monitoring and follow-up; offering data and health-information services in addition to drugs, or maybe even care-management expertise or care delivery.

Big data and analytics will be a critical factor in this new beyond-the-pill strategy, as the range of medical and healthcare devices like wearables and other patient-centric technologies have improved, less-expensive diagnostic equipment is available in physicians offices, and electronic health records provide ever-increasing quantities of information that enables a greater level of engagement between the pharmaceutical company and individual patients.

“The engagement becomes the product,” says Joseph Kvedar, director of the Center for Connected Health at Partners HealthCare. “ The therapeutic is almost a giveaway or marketing expense. There aren't many better ways to develop a relationship with a patient than through a prescription for a medication to treat a chronic illness."