Information Sources

A 360˚ View of the Healthcare Marketplace

For nearly 60 years, IMS Health has developed and maintained strong relationships with a diverse set of data suppliers throughout the healthcare delivery chain to provide clients with the most relevant, comprehensive information. Many of our data suppliers are also customers—a reciprocal arrangement that supports continuity in the data supply. This worldwide network of nearly 100,000 outlets, facilities and associations furnishes information to us in the form of: 

  • Transaction records
  • Medical claims submissions
  • Electronic Medical Records and other point-of-care documentation
  • Survey responses
  • Profile and contact information

By bringing this information together, we create a singular view of healthcare markets, product demand, patient health, and the value of medicines. We do this while respecting individual privacy, and employ a combination of privacy, compliance, legal and other resources, together with a combination of technical, physical and administrative safeguards, to ensure that privacy and data protection are core competencies.

Information sources include:


Hundreds of pharmaceutical manufacturers in more than 50 countries report to us on the volume of products they ship directly to their customers. This information supplements reports from more than 500 pharmaceutical wholesalers and distributors on their shipment of products to every distribution channel—including hospitals, clinics, retail and mail order pharmacies, pharmaceutical chains, mass merchandisers and food stores. 

Health Plans/Payers

Health plans in North America send us de-identified medical claims data for a complete record of patient care. The result is a foundation of real-world evidence that incorporates the industry's most comprehensive and diverse commercial health plan claims database.


Tens of thousands of pharmacy outlets—encompassing retail, mail-order, and long-term care pharmacies—send us information on the prescriptions they dispense. This information provides the industry with the knowledge to understand drug utilization and therapy trends at the local market level. Using a patented statistical methodology, we're able to accurately project the prescribing activity and treatment patterns in more than 10 countries.  


In various countries, IMS Health is granted access to national health systems' databases for project work. For instance, in the U.S., we are given access to Medicare and Medicaid databases and to health records of military forces and their families to perform analytical services for the Federal government. 


In 40+ countries, panels of practicing physicians report on their de-identified patient consultations, by diagnosis and patient type, along with the therapy prescribed. This provides insight into the incidence of disease around the world and into trends in treatment practices. A panel of 30,000 physicians across 35+ countries report regularly on the types of promotion they receive from life sciences companies, giving us qualitative and quantitative feedback on companies' promotional investments.


Each month, thousands of hospitals around the world report on the products they purchase, as well as on the treatment and discharge records for de-identified patients. The latter, when integrated with information from other points of care, provides a comprehensive view of healthcare delivery.


In many countries, laboratory companies report on the type and results of laboratory work and medical imaging performed on de-identified patients. This information can be integrated with information from hospitals, EMRs and pharmacies to reflect the full continuum of care for de-identified patients.

Panels & Surveys

IMS Health conducts ad hoc research with all healthcare stakeholder groups and maintains an ongoing panel of physicians around the world who regularly participate in quantitative and qualitative research studies.


More than 500 pharmaceutical wholesalers and distributors report to IMS Health on their shipment of products to hospitals, clinics, retail and mail order pharmacies, chains, mass merchandisers and food stores. This information, when coupled with the direct sales information provided by manufacturers in 50+ countries, provides a reliable measure of sales force effectiveness. It is also used in profiling and contract compliance and reflects more than 80 percent of the world's pharmaceutical sales.

Electronic Medical Record (EMR) Vendors

In the U.S. and major European countries, EMR vendors and physician users send us information on patient treatments and clinical measures recorded in the course of patient care. Our database includes input from 85,000 physicians and records on 33 million unique, de-identified patients. This information contributes to our overall understanding of how medicine is practiced.  

Social Media

IMS Health uses a mix of automation and human intelligence to analyze structured and unstructured social media data related to drugs, treatments and healthcare companies, while respecting patient privacy. This content can be integrated with our other information to support life sciences companies' drug discovery, market assessment, competitive intelligence, brand performance, risk management and stakeholder engagement.

Long-Term Care

In the U.S., IMS Health collects transaction data on the sale of prescription products from long-term care (LTC) pharmacy networks to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, community mental health centers, rehabilitation centers and other facilities. Our sources include the two leading chain LTC pharmacy networks and the leading independent LTC pharmacy network, which together represent 80 percent of the channel.  LTC data can be added to retail and mail-order prescription data to establish the overall value of a prescriber to a client's business. For 40 percent of the LTC channel, IMS Health tracks prescriptions over time at the de-identified patient level. This information can be linked to other IMS Health anonymized patient-level data to analyze drug utilization as patients transition between the retail, hospital and LTC settings. This helps manufacturers know how best to deploy their resources in educating healthcare professionals on the benefits of their products.