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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert
Heidelberg University Hospital saved lives during the pandemic through smarter data management. Get the whole story on our latest SAP BTP Better Together: Customer Conversation series.

We know that data has become a valuable asset for all sorts of businesses. In healthcare, however, data management takes on even greater importance — in fact, it’s priceless. Access to up-to-the-minute, trustworthy data can save lives, especially in a crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a stress test on healthcare systems across the world. As the number of patients outstripped the number of available beds, hospitals had to triage faster and route patients more intelligently.

Our latest SAP BTP Better Together episode focuses on the many ways that hospitals can use data and real-time analytics to improve patient care. Heidelberg University Hospital developed a cloud-based solution that enabled hospitals to optimize the usage of beds and equipment. The system also puts secure, real-time data at doctors’ fingertips, helping guide critical decision-making. It also supplied data to the German government to help track outbreaks of the pandemic, helping to control the spread of infection.

Across our podcast and LinkedIn session, we talked to Prof. Dr. Norbert Frey, Medical Director, Department of Cardiology, Angiology, and Pneumology at Heidelberg University Hospital, and Michael Byczkowski, Global VP and Head of Healthcare Industry at SAP. We discussed how Heidelberg University Hospital developed this solution, the results they have seen, and more.

  • For the podcast, Tamara McCleary, CEO at Thulium, talked to Dr. Frey and Michael about the progress they’ve seen since rolling out the solution, how it might apply to other healthcare organizations, and what other benefits digital transformation might bring to healthcare.

  • In the LinkedIn conversation, I focused on the practical implementation of the solution. We discussed the roadblocks and challenges they overcame, the impact it’s had on patients and providers, and the road ahead for Heidelberg University Hospital.

Here are a few key takeaways from the conversation:

Compatibility and Consolidation Are Essential

In the early days of the pandemic, says Dr. Frey, it was clear that hospitals needed to coordinate and collaborate to make the best use of limited resources. Since different hospitals had different specialists on staff and varying capabilities, it was crucial to properly triage and route patients. To compound the difficulty, they also needed to coordinate with the local fire department, which was routing ambulances.

Heidelberg University Hospital worked to create and deploy a cloud solution that would make data widely available across the healthcare system, while also providing a robust platform for analytics to guide decision-making. “The system needed to be super flexible,” says Dr. Frey. “In a conventional clinical information system, you don’t just shift beds around. But for a pandemic, you need that flexibility.”

A single source of data truth made it easier for hospitals to communicate and coordinate, in order to achieve the level of flexibility the situation required.

Quick Deployment and Iteration Speeds Development

The team at Heidelberg University Hospital not only needed a better data management solution, they needed it right away. “Like many others, we were overwhelmed,” says Dr. Frey. “Everybody remembers the images and videos from Italy, and we were really fighting to avoid problems like that.”

Heidelberg University Hospital borrowed started with a minimum viable product, rolled it out as soon as it was stable, and iterated on the design as needs arose. Most impressively, they did it without meeting in person. “This was all done via digital platforms, and all the discussion was done on video calls,” says Michael. “And it was still delivered in record time, a great solution which still works today.”

Data and the Future of Healthcare

Michael and Dr. Frey agreed that solutions like Heidelberg University Hospital’s will be essential for the future of healthcare. “Hospitals need to exchange data, and not only patient data, but also processes and benchmarking data,” says Dr. Frey. “This is important in order to run and manage effectively how healthcare is provisioned throughout different regions.”

The results from Heidelberg University Hospital’s solution make a solid case for more collaboration and communication. With the new solution, says Dr. Frey, “The community hospitals and the University Hospital actually got closer. It builds trust to have a system where everybody can look at objective data, rather than having to rely on information provided by phone that may or may not be trustworthy.”

Be a Part of the Conversation

Heidelberg University Hospital’s story is an unusual one; we only see a global pandemic every century or so. But their experience illustrates how essential good data management is for healthcare, whether or not we’re in a crisis. What they were able to build in such a short period of time is nothing short of amazing.

Interested in additional success where healthcare and technology intersect?

  • Charité: Building a Scalable Healthcare and Medical Research Platform

  • Moroccan Ministry of Health: A Real-Time Monitoring System Aiding Decision Making and Saving Lives in a Pandemic 

Looking for even more inspiring stories straight from SAP Business Technology Platform customers? You can check out the whole SAP BTP Better Together: Customer Conversations series, and more, at

Please let me know if there are topics you’d like to hear more about in the future as well as questions you’d like to explore. And, as always, please contact us if you’d like to be a guest on a future episode.