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SAP’s first ever Personalized Medicine Forum took place in Bonn, Germany on July 6, 7, 2016. Here my personal observations about this very exhilarating event. The action-packed agenda spanned two days, kicking off with a keynote by SAP CFO and COO Luka Mucic, in which he addressed how digitalization is changing businesses; not just healthcare, but across the board. Organizations that have not yet starting thinking about digitalization are already losing. Luka mentioned the SAP Digital Boardroom as one of the revolutionary examples. In the following panel discussion, representatives from the soccer club FC Bayern München, the car manufacturer Tesla, Ernst & Young and the finance ministry of Nordrhein Westfalen deep-dived into how going digital means getting closer to consumers, patients and users, and how this benefits both sides: faster service, faster sales, more engagement.

This was the red thread over the next days. In the first Precision Medicine panel, the participants highlighted the singular importance of patient and patient outcome; the panelists quickly honed in on the improvements that can be made in care and treatment through new technology; such as the use of omics and cohort data.

Kevin Fitzpatrick provided a keynote about the activities at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s CancerLinQ, highlighting the current status of the fight against cancer with Big Data and SAP.

Rapid digitalization not only affects the patient, but it also causes the emergence of completely new business models, and a dramatic shift in the life science landscape. As one example, device manufacturers, such as Apple, now have extensive information about our voices (through Apple’s Siri), as pointed out by Martin Pöhlchen in one of the panel sessions. Thus, such companies, just like the social network- and content-owners of the world, are suddenly realizing that they can enter the stage as pharma companies of the future. On the other hand, pharma companies are now extending into the content and data arena, realizing that Big Data must be at the core of R&D. Hubert Truebel of Bayer Pharma explored this in his presentation and the following panel discussion, showing that digital applications will indeed drive future Precision Medicine. Klaus Rupp of the Techniker Krankenkasse (Germany's largest Health Insurance with nearly 10 million insured people) noted that 10 Years of telematics did not show much progress. He saw some interesting trends whereby care-service may be replaced by digital solutions. The health expertise of the individual will increase, triggered by the digital access and the support of e-health solutions. Digital innovation in care has great economic potential and may help contain healthcare spending - but there is also a risk too that this add-on could make healthcare more expensive.

Oliver Schenk, of the German Ministry of Health, addressed the framework provided by the governments. On the one hand, data privacy is crucial to safeguard the citizen. On the other hand, the German governments has launched its biggest IT project yet to bring all the patient together and to drive the revolutionary modernization of data capture and exchange. Although data privacy was seen as an important topic, the audience also seemed to realize that a crawl-walk-run approach will help society and politicians to better grasp the advantages of Precision Medicine, and to come to balanced decisions.

And the patient? The patient is looking at a deeper interaction with the physician, at the same time extending control of own health. This is in many cases driven through mobile applications, as shown by the examples of Florian Dennerlein of Ambiotex, and Ben Clark of Validic. This was also highlighted by Sagie Pillay’s (Wits RHI, South Africa) presentation, showing the challenges of healthcare in South Africa, where mobile phones are the omnipresent method of communication and thus crucial to optimize health engagement. In general, African health systems are still weak, suffering from poor infrastructures and considerable brain-drain. Differences in healthcare between public and privately insured, rural and urban areas, and affordability and sustainability put a lot of strain on these nations.

Further presentations and animated debates addressed the optimal way to smoothen the digitalization through co-innovation and how research can benefit from Big Data (a presentation by Magnus Peterson, Uppsala University) to revolutionize the way that new findings can be obtained.

During the breaks, participants joined in high-value discussions. As one of the participants said after the meeting: “The SAP-Forum on PM combined key players around personalized medicine showing the great potential, that can be unleashed by establishing a common platform for data management across healthcare. A one of its kind opportunity to learn and connect with decision makers.”

Find more photos here.