Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Thursday, June 30, 2022

SAP Chairman Sets Sights on Healthcare 

To help his company run more efficiently, SAP chairman and co-founder Hasso Plattner has shifted his business to helping humans to run more efficiently as well.

Plattner, who turns 70 next year, says that helping doctors to use medical data can help them to make faster, more accurate decisions that will ultimately deliver more personalized medical care.

The idea is that by using this information, diseases can be identified and treated earlier, helping to stop the progression of disease, help patients to live longer, and ultimately lower healthcare costs, since more expensive procedures often come as the result of delayed diagnoses.

Of course, Plattner is far from the only one with this idea. Last month Google launched a healthcare company called Calico, which has been designed to tackle a problem that transcends humanity: aging. And IBM is using its Watson and other technologies to tackle cancer and even traumatic brain injury treatment. And according to consulting firm McKinsey, since 2010 over 200 new businesses are working to use healthcare information as well.

What Plattner says separates SAP from the rest is Hasso’s New Architecture (HANA), which can speed up complex calculations by compressing and storing data in memory instead of on a separate disk.

The result, he says, is that a researcher could conduct genetic analysis in real time, and promptly cross-reference certain genetic variables with a databank of other genomes to reveal key medical predispositions.

So far, SAP has remained most popular in the research sphere, but Plattner notes that within clinical settings, the company aims only to support physicians—not displace them. SAP has so far partnered with Stanford School of Medicine and the Charité University Hospital in Berlin, and has signed up 2,100 corporate customers.

As far as the privacy roadblock that has already stalled some efforts similar to SAP’s, Plattner points to a similar dilemma that came about when cars were first introduced.

“The protection of an individual must be ensured as much as possible but not at the price that we don’t do things that we could. Before there were cars there were also no traffic laws,” he says. “It’s a similar thing here. We must make laws that regulate what happens with digital information.

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