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Author's profile photo Jacqueline Prause

Healthcare Check-Up: Digital Transformation

The definition of “healthcare” in recent years has expanded beyond referencing providers and hospitals to include pharma, insurance, biology life science organizations, medical device manufacturers, and public agencies.


For IT providers like SAP, this vast, heterogeneous landscape brings with it inherent complexities. It also presents opportunities for IT to make meaningful contributions by improving patient care, enabling healthcare providers to share and use data collaboratively, and treating diseases more proactively.

The first step for a digital transformation in healthcare is digitizing relevant data; then corralling, analyzing and sharing that information in real time. This leads to greater transparency and creates possibilities for further innovation. With its cloud, big data and mobile technologies, SAP shows how IT can positively impact healthcare, particularly in the areas of population health, modernizing providers, and precision medicine.

Martin Kopp, General Manager, Healthcare, SAP, puts into perspective the benefits IT brings to healthcare, as he says, “We have not understood totally how a body is composed and how all these organs work together, but what IT has given us is much more transparency.”

Recent gains in population health

“Population health” looks at the health of a defined population holistically. It aims to identify risk factors – that could be socioeconomic, lifestyle, or medical in nature – and intervene proactively.

Population health requires the digestion of a large volume of data often from many different sources to make it work. Big Data technology is critical to understanding trends and emerging problems, deep analysis of correlation and causality, predicting health trends and evaluating effective treatments. In the past, by the time the analysis was completed, the results were based on data which was months old. In-memory computing shifts this to near real time enabling more rapid identification and intervention on at-risk individuals. Examples include the registration of newborn children in rural communities of Africa (read more).

Cloud and mobile are two more technologies rapidly gaining favor for ease of information transfer and sharing, especially when compared to paper-based systems. Rural areas, like those in Africa, lack the infrastructure to exchange information. In such environments, it is critical to bring care to the patient at the point where it is needed. To find out how SAP supports rural healthcare initiatives, watch SAP Healthcare Reaches Underserved Communities.

Recent technology innovations are also having helping fight against deadly diseases. For example, SAP cloud and analytics solutions are allowing healthcare works more quickly to survey and understand the effect of Ebola in a given community and take action. (learn more in this video).

Moving beyond silos, Modernizing healthcare providers

Big data promises to help healthcare enterprises enhance efficiency. Too many healthcare providers however still rely on paper-based systems, even while digitization is arguably a prerequisite for further transformation of the industry.

“It’s a complex data issue,” says Claudius Metze, Senior Solution Manager, Healthcare, SAP. Metze notes that some hospitals operate as many as 500 different systems to meet the varied needs of medical specialties. “Integration is a big hurdle challenge and why data is not that fluid.”

SAP’s approach therefore is to help solve data integration challenges by providing physicians with easy access to information at the point of care, via solutions like SAP EMR Unwired app (abbreviated from Electronic Medical Record), accessible with Android, Windows, or iOS devices. This app integrates information from across the many systems to enable doctors to have an overview of their patients, as well as to drill down to more specific care information for individuals. By giving healthcare providers easy access to information, SAP supports them to make the best decision for the patient.

Fighting cancer with precision medicine

One way Big Data can transform healthcare is in the field of precision medicine, by helping doctors to develop tailored treatment of diseases like cancer based on individual patient data.

SAP is helping to fight cancer in collaboration with the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) with its Big Data solution, SAP HANA cloud. Now oncologists can analyze structured and unstructured data in real time – including patient health history, clinical information systems, tumor registries, biobank systems and even text documents like a physician’s notes.

“Once the data is in a structured format,” explains Werner Eberhardt, Vice President Healthcare Development, SAP, “then you have a platform to compare patient cohorts of like characteristics, or compare patients with similar profiles, and come back with treatments that were successful in the past and come up with much more precise, better treatment. That is what we call precision medicine.”

To see how ASCO and SAP have teamed up to create personalized treatment plans for cancer patients, watch this video:

This piece is part of an ongoing “SAP Healthcare: A Check Up” series, which looks at how SAP is improving people’s health around the world. It was originally published on the SAP News Center.

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