SAP Research is the global technology research unit of SAP, significantly contributing to SAP’s product portfolio and identifying and shaping emerging IT trends through applied research and corporate venturing. In contrast to SAP’s product groups we explore opportunities that have not yet been developed into products. It goes without saying that bright ideas cannot evolve in a vacuum and our work is thus based on an extensive co-innovation approach. Collaborating happens with leading Universities, customers and partners leading to projects that are both relevant to SAP and to our ecosystem.
So how does all that relate to healthcare you might ask yourself. How can those technology nerds contribute anything useful to hospitals, pharmacies, GPs and patients? Well, we have proven that we can in many areas. During the last few years, IT innovation in the medical sector has been speeding up and terminologies like eHealth, telemonitoring, electronic patient records and many more are in the press everywhere. Interoperability between different healthcare players, tracking of medication and equipment, data security and privacy are hot topics. An ageing population in Western Europe, chronic diseases like diabetes, higher expectations of patients, new government regulations stand in contrast to increasing costs for sophisticated treatments and staff shortage.
Already more than three years ago, SAP Research identified eHealth as an important upcoming topic. The topic spreads across all of our seven research programs, i.e. Business Process Modelling & Semantic Interoperability, Smart Items Research, Knowledge People Interaction, Security & Trust, Data Management & Analytics as well as Software Engineering & Architecture can all be applied to healthcare requirements and scenarios. Further, the SAP Research Fields that have recently been established are relevant to healthcare, in particular the Internet of Services and Technologies for Emerging Economies. More about that later.
First I want to start talking about a few examples of projects that show the innovation capability of SAP Research in the healthcare arena:
When we started engaging with the Industry Business Unit for Healthcare we built reference demos based on our Business Process Management expertise. We modelled processes, executed them and showcased the whole story and underlying workflows of a patient from falling ill to recovery. Among others we captured this in an SAP internal video and later on worked on a proof of concept with our colleagues to enable collaboration on the Collaborative Health Network (CHN) with Accenture. In the early days of eHealth this helped visualising the upcoming healthcare networks and looking beyond hospital management.
The topic you are going to hear more about in future blogs is related to Security & Trust. SAP Research was coordinating a European Specific Targeted Research Project MOSQUITO (Workers’ Secure Business Applications in Ubiquitous Environments.). Focus was on the development of easy-to-use security framework for collaborative business applications in mobile and ubiquitous computing environments. The main outcome of our collaboration with SAP’s Industry Business Unit for Healthcare led by Dr. Annett Laube was a demonstrator showing research results, like context-aware access control, pervasive workflow and the CryptoTerminal mobile applications in the context of the SAP Collaborative Health Network. Watch the video of this demonstrator here. Annett will write in one of the following blogs about the integration of a Wireless Sensor Network into the Collaborative Health Network (Regional Patient Index, Healthcare Professional Index, Security Services).
One of the Research Fields SAP Research is engaging in is called Technologies for Emerging Economies which at first seems a little strange for a multinational. However, we have decided to better understand and learn from what is happening in emerging economies in order to roll out eLearning and Healthcare concepts to rural areas. The approach is not only to focus on one country but develop blueprints that can be rolled out to other emerging economies and even help streamlining highly engineered products in industrial countries. Two projects in the healthcare space that we are conducting in Pretoria / South Africa are HeaDMan and PaTHS. HeaDMan deals with Health Data Management on Demographic Surveillance Sites (collaboration with NGO In-Depth). This fascinating research has the goal to develop a common transparent Demographic Surveillance Site data model and data warehouse, which will provide regulated and user-friendly access to identified DSS data. PaTHS focuses more at the healthcare professional aiming at developing a user-friendly patient health software solution for managing chronic diseases to improve the quality and efficacy of primary healthcare system in rural communities. Both projects are conducted with local partners and are planned to come up with blueprints for other emerging economies, e.g. the so-called BRIC countries.
Another project SAP Research could leverage for healthcare is WearIT@Work the world largest project in wearable computing. At a hospital in Austria the project team implemented a prototype that enables a doctor to conduct a ward round completely hands free. The SAP TV video was shown at the annual shareholder meeting and achieved high visibility.
More recently, SAP has set up the Industry Thought Leadership initiative for all its industry business units accelerating the speed with which SAP is driving industry innovation. Industry Thought Leadership for Healthcare has come up with the concept of a Health Information Broker that guarantees a continuum along the Healthcare chain in order to provide optimal services to the patient who is the centre of the system. This being a vision SAP Research currently works on various programs that aim at making the vision of the Internet of Services that enables a Service Ecosystem such as a healthcare ecosystem a reality. THESEUS with the aim of building an Internet-based knowledge infrastructure is the most prominent example with visibility up to Henning Kagermann and chancellor Merkel in Germany.
SAP demonstrates thought leadership in outlining a clear vision of where we are going. This is without doubt still a long way to go but together we seem to be on the right road.