When most people think of SAP HANA, they think “extreme speed.” And they should, given that the in-memory capabilities of SAP HANA enable it to process and analyze large volumes of data in real time.
Nowhere is this more true – and more impactful on people’s lives – than the National Center for Tumor Diseases in Heidelberg, Germany. One of the problem statements the NCT originally approached us for was following: It was far too difficult for the staff to determine which patients would be the best candidates to test new drug treatments in clinical trials. The usual approach is to base it on their symptoms. Accessing and analyzing data for the center’s thousands of patients was a complex and time-consuming process, as it involved searching multiple databases, compiling patient lists, and manually checking whether patients matched criteria for clinical trials by reviewing each file individually.
The NCT believed that SAP HANA would provide the speed it was looking for to do the job much more quickly.
We could have just put millions of data points into SAP HANA and solved their problem in real-time. But we added one important element: DESIGN. We went on-site, and observed how doctors, researchers, nurses and other medical staff work. We realized that we not only could help them solve this problem, but we could also resolve other problems that they didn’t even realize they could solve. We could enable them to work in ways they had never thought of before.
What NCT did not anticipate was that the new system would enable doctors to potentially save lives. Now, when a new patient is enrolled at the center with certain symptoms, doctors can easily search in real-time for other patients with similar symptoms. They can see what treatments were administered, as well as the outcome. Because of the speed, thanks to SAP HANA, and the user experience, thanks to design thinking, doctors can now potentially make timely life-saving decisions for patients that they could not have done before.
In observing the NCT staff, our team drew distinctions about the needs of different roles: for instance, doctors needed to search patient data as part of their daily work, while the research staff was focused on patient statistics. For any role, however, the goal was to easily guide the user to the most critical information and eliminate manual processes.
Using the design thinking methodology – that is, conducting user observations, creating UI mock-ups, incorporating feedback, and iterating in short cycles – a multidisciplinary team designed and developed a Web application, based on SAP HANA, which allows medical staff to visualize and analyze patient data in real time. NCT staff can view patients’ medical histories through a graphical timeline, and they can use customizable lists of patients to identify clinical study participants. Data from multiple sources can quickly be searched and filtered in a variety of ways, whether context-based intelligent search or menu-based access.
Innovation often occurs when ideas intersect from different areas of experience. For NCT – and many other organizations – I’m confident that if you combine the power of SAP HANA with the power of DESIGN you will achieve meaningful innovation.