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Houston, we have lift-off - as a boy I heard that line numerous times, as astronauts blasted off to the moon, leaving me behind on Earth, mesmerized. We now live in equally exciting times, the attention broadened beyond the exploration of space (which is still a pet topic of mine) to other exciting areas, one of which definitely is healthcare. Over the last months, I was privileged to join conferences where both status and vision of healthcare were discussed, from very different angles.

Roche’s 2017 FutureX Healthcare conference in Munich was all about Making Data Meaningful. Politicians, decision makers, start-ups, tech providers, insurers and pharma met to discuss the latest trends and the future. As Tim Jaeger, Global Head Diagnostics Information Solutions at Roche summarized: “digitization offers a better chance to navigate complex patient information for physicians, which leads to better patient outcomes.” The ability to determine wellness and risk of disease is now critical for the ageing population. This was also reflected in the event’s Start-Up contest, with Fibricheck winning the number one spot with an application for measuring heart rhythm with the tough of a fingertip. Many start-ups were present, all with very impressive business ideas. In the panel discussion where I had the honor to represent SAP, prevention and precision medicine were recognized as the key benefits of Big Data, yet roadblocks included speed in analysis, regulation/legislation, and overall data accessibility. Other industries have already long seen the advantages from usage of big data, to a far greater degree than healthcare - because they have realized that uniting datasets leads to a transform­­­­ative release of potential and thereby positive outcomes. In healthcare we are still at the beginning. It was refreshing to hear Ilse Aigner, Bavaria’s Minister for Economics, stress that data privacy laws should remain grounded, and that society must realize that patient data holds tremendous value for all of us.

At the Global Biobank Week 2017 in Stockholm, Greg Simon (President at the Biden Cancer Initiative) in his impressive keynote made one crucial observation: “Biobanking can help in the fight against cancer… but data silos are the issue.” This comment was mirrored by many of the conference attendees that I spoke to during the event. There is a terrific opportunity to liberate and democratize all the information that is currently associated with the millions of frozen bio-samples (blood, cells, tissues, urine – all of which allow screening wellness, predicting ill health and therapy response). This bonanza of biobank content encompasses structured- and unstructured-, genomics-, proteomics-, and image-data, which when fully connected and explorable through ultra-fast analytics will benefit all of us, whether we are healthy consumers or patients. For that reason, the interest of biobanks is shifting from an invest in hardware (e.g. storage freezers) to an invest in tools that facilitate data mining. Is that happening fast enough? Many of the biobankers that I spoke to believe that progress is being made, but that this could happen faster.

SAP has picked up the glove for this challenge. As the health-revolution gains pace, it continues to affect many industries and organizations. Patients are taking charge of their health ­experience and expect medical decisions and products to be tailored to their specific needs, so that they can live full and healthy lives. The combination o­f patient involvement and big data analysis (including clinical, R&D, personal medical, and social information) has already now begun to boost innovation, through faster drug-, therapy-, diagnostics-, and device-development – and it will ultimately lead to better treatment. Indeed, data silos must be broken down, but the data analysis must be carried out in real-time, and results must be provided instantaneously, across orthogonal multidimensional datasets. This is where SAP Health’s analytic solutions come into play, allowing slicing and dicing of the data from massive-size patient cohorts. Data should be available anywhere and anytime to the stakeholders, and at the same time data privacy and security must be guaranteed: key services enabled by SAP HANA and the SAP Health products. Patients, doctors, researchers, drug and device developers should be enabled to optimally collaborate on health information.

Our partner CBmed highlighted how this can be achieved at the conference in Stockholm. Gustav Roussy in Paris is another example for an institute that focuses strongly on precision medicine.

In conclusion, and to return to the space travel analogy: the rockets to the moon were launched, yet traveling at different speeds: some delivering highly innovative results that already affect patients today, others accelerating to improve our lives in the future.