SAP HANA Platform for Healthcare: Bringing the World Closer to Real-Time Personalized Medicine

Posted by Enakshi Singh on October 15, 2013

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SAP HANA Platform for Healthcare

How much data do you think is associated with a single person during a lifetime of doctors’ visits? What kinds of datasets are associated with a patient or healthcare, in general? Where does all this data reside? These are the kind of questions a software company, like SAP, is interested in. We know that 500 petabytes of healthcare data was collected in 2012. By 2020, it is projected that there will be over 2500 petabytes of healthcare data collected! That is A LOT of data! Additionally, the healthcare analytics market is projected to grow to $10.8 billion by 2017 from $3.7 billion in 2012. In short, we are going to need a way to parse through all of this data. Especially when treating a patient, the faster we can gain insight from all of this data, the better. The individualized treatment of a patient is the ultimate goal of personalized medicine – tailoring treatment to a patient based on their genetic, biological and physical information.

There is another challenge when we think about leveraging health data to enable personalized medicine – all this data is highly fragmented. Today, biological data, clinical data and lifestyle data are separated into disparate systems. Integration of all large-scale biological, clinical and lifestyle datasets can enable unprecedented in-depth analyses of all relevant data for the treatment of a particular patient.

The image below highlights SAP’s vision for the SAP HANA platform for healthcare. Biological data includes genomic data, proteomic data, and all other “-omic” datasets. Clinical data includes patient-specific data that resides in electronic medical records (EMRs). Lifestyle data includes the self-tracking, wearable technology that most of us are using to track our vitals, our calories, and our daily exercise. SAP HANA will act as the platform to integrate all these datasets, and give the user – a researcher or clinician – the freedom to perform analyses and gain insights from this data. SAP HANA platform for healthcare will enable all sorts of analyses, from predictive to treatment decision support to examining patterns and trends across patient and healthy populations. As an in-memory data platform, scientists, researchers and even clinicians can leverage SAP HANA to process large amounts of healthcare data – all in real-time! Much of the data in the healthcare industry is unstructured, and with SAP HANA, we can also integrate unstructured and structured datasets for analysis.


SAP HANA is already making a difference beyond the enterprise software that SAP is traditionally known for. For example, SAP HANA is changing the way sports teams scout their players, and the way fans interact with sports teams by revolutionizing the fan experience. The question now is: How will SAP HANA make a difference in healthcare?

The SAP HANA platform for healthcare is being built using multidisciplinary teams from all over the world. Coming from a scientific background myself, I am so passionate about being part of a team that includes expertise from a variety of fields – from computer science to “wet-lab” science. By co-innovating with leading experts, we are leveraging SAP HANA to provide researchers and clinicians an easy, user-friendly way to consume large-scale health-related datasets. In addition to the SAP HANA platform for healthcare, SAP is also building two applications: 1) Genome Analysis – real-time analyses of genomic data, and 2) Patient Data Explorer – real-time analyses of clinical data.

SAP HANA for Platform Healthcare: Genomics data


The image above nicely summarizes that the processing and analyses of genomics data is a “big data problem.” I attended the Bio-IT Conference & Expo earlier this year, and both the Broad Institute and Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute mentioned that they were dealing with over 15 PB of biological data every single day! As sequencing technology continues to improve, there will be large-scale genomic data sets waiting to be analysed. The bottleneck is no longer the sequencing technology, but the processing and analyses of the genomic data. So, we need new tools to obtain clinically actionable results from genomic data in the most efficient way possible.

Imagine a world where every single person’s genome is sequenced and stored along with their medical record. We can take a patient’s genome and compare it against a database of genomes and discover areas that are unique to that patient. This could help a clinician find a more targeted therapy that is personal to the patient’s genetic profile. Or, think of a case in which we know a person has a genetic predisposition to a certain inherited disease. If a clinician knows these predispositions beforehand, he can make sure that his patient undergoes regular screening or encourage a healthier lifestyle, which may change or delay the onset of the inherited disease. Today, genome wide association studies are performed to determine if there are any associations between genetic variants and a certain disease or trait. This type of study typically involves comparing the expression of certain genetic variants between diseased (case) and healthy (control) individuals. SAP HANA can perform these types of analyses across a database of human genomes, and can do so almost instantaneously!

SAP HANA Platform for Healthcare: Clinical data

Imagine a case of a 40-year-old male, suffering from non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), visiting his doctor to obtain treatment. Today, his doctor may suggest a specific type of chemotherapy. This treatment decision is typically based on the doctors’ experience with similar cases. Or, the doctor has read some literature that asserts that this type of chemotherapy is most effective. However, what if the doctor could immediately search the hospital’s medical records for a list of all patients that had ever been to that hospital with NSCLC? What if the doctor could explore all treatments and therapies delivered to all these patients, in real-time? What if a doctor could examine the survival rate of all these patients and try to give his or her newest patient the therapy cocktail that seemed to have the best prognosis? With SAP HANA, researchers and clinicians are now able to perform such analyses, in real-time! But, that’s not all a researcher or clinician can do with this application. Imagine the types of genetic associations we could find if we were able to pool the genetic markers of all these patients, and integrate them with clinical records. What if a doctor could provide a treatment that was personalized to the patient, specific to certain genetic markers expressed by this patient? With SAP HANA, we are taking unstructured data (from doctors’ notes) and integrating them with structured data (clinical records). The medical community can use this to find all sorts of new associations with genetic markers and certain types of cancer or disease, for example.

This is only a small mention of two applications being developed on the SAP HANA platform for healthcare. Personally, I am very excited to be a part of the team that gets to work on these applications and I hope that this can lead to us living longer and healthier lives!

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