June 1, 2016 (Vol. 36, No. 11)

Zephyr Health’s Insight as a Service Focuses on Actionable Results for Life Sciences Companies

Zephyr Health is transforming big data from myriad sources into actionable information for life sciences sales and marketing teams. In the process, Zephyr Health is helping its customers make nonobvious connections that help them drive engagement, determine current and future thought leaders, and identify leading prescribers. It is also helping its customers identify factors that favor their competitors.

“Zephyr Health is an Insights as a Service company—the first and perhaps only one in healthcare,” says William King, the company’s founder and executive chairman. “Zephyr is about the transformation of data.”

Historically, datasets have been disconnected. Datasets belonging to organizations have been known to grow prodigiously and yet serve little purpose, since they resisted aggregation or mining efforts. In the past few years, organizations have improved their aggregation and mining capabilities, and they have started to make use of big data.

“We are no longer just analyzing data,” explains King. “We are developing actionable insights.”

Zephyr Illuminate is an Insights as a Service (IaaS) application, which is a kind of Software as a Service (SaaS) application. Like SaaS applications, IaaS applications provide cloud-based analytics. IaaS applications, however, also generate alternative actions clients might take.

Zephyr Health’s IaaS can aggregate customer relationship management (CRM) databases, enterprise resource planning (ERP) databases, and other internal databases with data purchased from vendors and the thousands of public databases indexed and curated by the Zephyr Illuminate platform. Consequently, Zephyr Illuminate lets companies profile individual physicians based upon their activities and interests. Using machine learning, Zephyr Illuminate segments physician contacts and ranks them according to client-determined values.

Zephyr Illuminate’s analytics algorithms are specialized for specific tasks such as making connections that otherwise would go unnoticed. Such connections have the potential to generate a wealth of actionable insights.

Machine learning makes many of the insights possible. Machine learning, basically, is pattern recognition that combs through data, identifies patterns, and presents them to users. “Humans, attempting the same task, omit things and introduce bias,” notes King. “Machines lack those biases.” Machine learning also processes data far faster than humans, enabling tremendous quantities of data to be analyzed for more thorough results.


The Zephyr Illuminate platform’s Zephyr Re- commendations feature can be used to improve decision making with business-driven suggestions and predictive analytics, leveraging deep account profiles to improve the targeting and segmentation of a drug developer’s highest-potential customers. For example, the feature can identify the best channels of engagement.

Advice from Key Opinion Leaders

One global life sciences company wanted a list of key opinion leaders before launching its multiple sclerosis drug. An outside consultancy developed a seed list, but more than half the targets were irrelevant.

Zephyr Illuminate screened that list against additional datasets using its advanced analytics, reducing the irrelevant profiles to less than 20%. That improvement increased efficiency and enabled medical science liaisons to have more meaningful discussions. Medical liaison teams operated 10% faster and reduced unnecessary visits by 30%.

Such experiences demonstrate that integrating market and customer intelligence with CRM data yields a competitive advantage. They also show that data can be shared among business functions to help marketing, sales, and medical affairs teams better coordinate their efforts.


Zephyr Illuminate is designed to integrate data from thousands of disconnected sources to provide actionable customer and market insights. The platform includes Zephyr Scores, a feature that assesses physician engagement with respect to metrics such as treatment volume, promotional engagement, market influence, and clinical research. These metrics can be tracked in apps for smart phones as well as laptop systems.

Predictive Analytics

Predictive insights is the next phase in the evolution of big data. Analyzing the vast quantities of data available lets organizations identify physicians who are likely to become key influencers or key prescribers in the future, as well as to identify those on the wane.

Zephyr has a “Score” function that tracks leaders’ profiles over time, noting changes in key attributes such as research activity, standing as an influencer, and degree of engagement. At a more granular level, leaders’ scores may account for authorship credits, congress speaking engagements, and clinical trial contributions. “Often it’s a discrete piece of information retrieved in a timely manner that lets a person ‘instrument’ the business precisely,” King explains.

The higher the engagement score, for instance, the more touchpoints the pharmaceutical company has with the physician. Likewise, if a scoring effort reveals that a physician ranks highly in terms of prescribing activity, that physician may be especially willing to prescribe new versions of the product. Engagement scores may be used by companies to tailor campaigns to resonate with specific physicians—clinicians versus researchers, for example.

Because the market is finely segmented, materials can be delivered through targets’ preferred contact methods—such as webinars, email messages, or other venues—and reinforced with social media, direct mail, or office visits.

At an even finer level, King says, sales teams can “identify the 12 most important customers to see today based upon recent events such as webinar attendance.”

Changing Marketing

“The days of developing one message to resonate with the entire market, even in a single geography, are gone,” King stresses. “The U.S. Presidential election of 2008 is a case in point. Barak Obama’s campaign used microtargeting to deliver tailored messages to constituents, based on data insights that influenced audience segmentation. It won him the election.”

Segmentation is just as valuable in pharmaceutical marketing as in political campaigns. Before big data analytics, companies were limited to segmenting markets into a few broad categories like specialty or geography. With Illuminate, they can segment physicians by prescribing patterns, treatment volume, market access, engagement, influence, and even financial relationships with competitors.

The ability to finely segment the market and then to deliver messages through channels that most resonate with individual targets improves companies’ opportunities to educate physicians on choosing the right drug, diagnostic, or medical device for their patients.

Growing Opportunity

“We see massive opportunity in the market,” declares King. “And we are getting a fabulous reception.” Using Zephyr Illuminate, sales teams have been able to identify up to 25% more high-potential accounts.

“Where representatives used to see 100 physicians, now they can see the 125 ‘right’ physicians. And we can predict the 18% of those who will be increasingly relevant in the future—tomorrow’s up-and-comers,” King continues. “That’s a tremendous advantage.”

Today, Zephyr Health’s customers include 4 of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies, 2 of the top 10 biotech companies, and 2 of the top 10 medical device companies. Zephyr Health is financed by Icon Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), and Google Ventures.  Each of these venture capitalists has specific expertise in disruptive information technology companies. Zephyr Health has also formed a partnership with the CRM Veeva Systems. “We’re excited about the possibilities of continued enhancement around machine learning and more and different data types,” says King.

Zephyr Health

Location: 450 Mission Street, Suite 201, San Francisco, CA 94105

Phone: (415) 529-7649

Website: www.zephyrhealth.com

Principals: William King, Founder and Executive Chairman and Lance Scott, CEO

Number of Employees: 100

Focus: Zephyr Health, an insights-as-a-service company focused on the life sciences, taps into global health data to help clients connect with the right customers and accelerate sales and marketing activities.

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