Sections

Meaningful Purpose: How Sustainability Attracts Millennials

Faith Woo

I was in the seventh grade when Al Gore’s controversial documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, captivated audiences and exposed the devastating causes and effects of global warming. I remember no fewer than three of my teachers rolling the projector into class so that we could watch it.

The documentary opened our eyes to the horrors that lurked in pollution and consumption, and inspired a classroom of impressionable twelve-year-olds to adopt the few sustainable practices available to them. The message it delivered – an exciting, galvanizing call to action – resonated in many of my peers and me.

I distinctly recall feeling a sudden passion for environmentalism, though my grasp on the concept then was naturally hazy and loose. This passion has grown with me over the last decade, and remains with me to this day.

The values revolution

The fact is I am not alone: my generation of millennials has grown up with an acute awareness of environmental issues as the threat of global warming produces tangible effects. The consequences of climate change are catching up to us: melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, and even a sickly Great Barrier Reef. It just takes one Google search of “millennials + sustainability” to conjure headlines about the remarkable interest this generation has in environmentalism.

Moreover, a so-called “values revolution” seems to be taking place among millennials, according to a study conducted by Global Tolerance. The study says that 84% of millennials “consider it their duty to make a positive difference through their lifestyle.” Similarly, an article in Business Insider shares how millennials place great value on the sustainability of a purchase, and are more willing than other generations to spend more for an environmentally friendly product.

As consumers, millennials respond to environmental purpose, and we carry this fervent attitude towards social responsibility into the workplace.

Millennials want meaningful purpose

Companies that champion a purpose beyond financial gain increase their impact with millennials. We want to engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR), and with a great wealth of knowledge on sustainability, our commitment often influences our attitudes towards our employers.

The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey concluded that millennials judge companies’ success on a level beyond the financial: my generation’s desire for commitments to improving the world displaces the traditional importance of profitability.

Unlike other generations, millennials actively seek employers whose environmental values align with theirs. The Global Tolerance report found 62% of millennials want to work for a company “that makes a positive impact” and 53% work harder knowing their work makes a difference to the world.

Championing a cause and promoting a purpose engages and inspires millennials, and I believe we value companies with a strong environmental and social record.

Purpose-driven business is sustainable – for all generations

Sustainability is simply another lens through which we can examine the impact of purpose-driven business on a millennial workforce. A company whose purpose in some way aligns with a millennial’s core values is a winning combination where the relationship between employer and employee becomes mutually beneficial.

However, while millennials may be driving the conversation, the effects of a sustainable purpose resonate with employees of all ages. A recent article in Harvard Business Review shows that a company’s engagement in sustainability creates a culture desirable to all employees. In fact, morale and productivity increase in employees when they feel a loyalty to their companies as a result of sustainability programs.

When a company has a purpose, whether environmental or otherwise, it sends a message to employees that their values and passions can be realized on a corporate level. For instance, my purpose and my company’s align. Working at SAP, I see firsthand that its vision and purpose is rooted in many causes, one of which is sustainability. Its dedication to creating a clean planet, combating climate change, and encouraging responsible growth is exemplar of a purpose-driven organization.

I feel lucky that I can share and channel my personal passion for a sustainable world in a professional setting. I feel as though my participation in a company that integrates sustainability “into [its] core business by embedding sustainability throughout [its] organization” adds value to society and benefits the environment. And because of this personal association, SAP has my loyalty.

This blog is part of our Millennials on Purpose series. To learn more about SAP’s higher purpose to help the world run better and improve people’s lives, visit sap.com/purpose.

Comments

Faith Woo

About Faith Woo

Faith Woo is a millennial who likes to stay curious and challenge herself both personally and professionally. She recently graduated from McGill University with a B.A. in English Literature, and joined SAP in May 2016. Passionate about the values of sustainability and corporate social responsibility espoused by SAP, she currently works as an information developer associate, and supports a development team by creating product documentation.

Electronic Signatures: Ready For Prime Time After 148 Years

Alicia Rudolph

Electronic signatures (e-signatures), the concept of using a signal or process to show signing intent, has been around for a long time. In fact, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in 1869 (Howley v. Whipple 48 N.H. 487) that Morse code broadcast over telegraph lines could serve as an enforceable signature under state law.

Over the years, laws and technology have continued to evolve. But it was not until the new millennium that the U.S. government made physical and electronic signatures legally equivalent. On July 1, 2000, President Clinton e-signed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) and established a legal framework for using electronic documents.

Strong growth for e-signature technology through 2020

Electronic signature technology has grown significantly since ESIGN went into effect, especially in the U.S., where the practice has been widely adopted by the e-commerce, financial services, and insurance sectors. P&S Market Research expects the demand for the technology that enables e-signatures to sustain a compounded annual growth rate of 39.2% through 2020.

Three factors are encouraging companies to invest in this aspect of digital transformation: efficiency, compliance, and traceability.

Electronic signatures promote efficiency

Paper-based workflows and signature-management processes are time-consuming and unreliable. Workers often need to transport or print physical documents, capture a legible signature, and then scan, fax, or mail the completed document to another location for further processing.

With e-signature solutions, documents can be signed and returned online in minutes. For example, businesses can integrate e-signature management with procurement processes to simplify digital transactions and more quickly execute agreements. Other signature-dependent activities, such as human resource onboarding, can be similarly streamlined to reduce paper, increase productivity, and accelerate decision-making.

Electronic signatures ensure compliance

Traditional workflows create exposures by making potentially sensitive information easier to access. It is not unusual for business documents to include personal information, pricing details, proprietary business terms, intellectual property, and other highly sensitive data. If this information is subject to local and regional security and privacy regulations – such as ISO 27001, SSAE 16 SOC 2, PCI DSS, or HIPAA, for example – any compliance failure can lead to expensive penalties and legal entanglements.

Solutions for e-signatures are designed for compliance. Encryption and tamper-conspicuous measures ensure that sensitive information is kept secure at each step in the signing process. Rules built into the software can quickly check deliveries and verify that all required paperwork is complete and signed.

Electronic signatures improve traceability

Lost or misplaced documents drive down efficiency while increasing costs. Many companies implement paper-based audit trails to verify document processes, deter fraud, and correct input errors. While paper auditing is well entrenched in the business world, cloud-based document management and signature solutions are becoming more attractive to a range of companies, from large multinationals to small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

On-premise and cloud-based solutions are increasingly affordable and easy-to-implement. Documents that live in an electronic environment are easier to track during signing since the underlying software can automatically create clear audit trails, certificates of completion, and tamper-evident seals. E-signatures can be marked with time, geo-location, and unique identifier tags to create a level of visibility not possible with physical signatures.

As businesses further embrace digital transformation, they will continue to look for affordable enabling technologies. And the demand for e-signature solutions and related digital transaction management systems will continue to grow and improve the user experience while taking time and cost out of essential processes.

Want to learn more?  Listen to the SAPRadio show Digital Transformation with eSignatures: Beyond the Obvious, featuring panelists from DocuSign, EY, and SAP. And follow @SAPPartnerBuild on Twitter.

Comments

Alicia Rudolph

About Alicia Rudolph

Alicia Rudolph is presently part of the Strategic Ecosystem Marketing at SAP. She is passionate about leveraging Social Media as a way to drive business for partners and customers alike.

IoT And Connected Markets

Pushkar Ranjan

The Internet of Things (IoT) involves connected products, assets, fleets, infrastructures, markets, and people. In this series of blogs, we’ll address each of these connected aspects in turn.

We’ve grown accustomed to the idea of IoT in retail environments – for example, beacons that can recognize participants in frequent-shopper programs and automatically deliver personalized offers to their cellphones. But IoT can transform other kinds of markets, as well.

In rural settings, IoT can augment physical infrastructure to enable new connectivity and capabilities for agribusiness and related supply networks. In urban landscapes, IoT can connect traffic, buildings, and public spaces for greater efficiency and more effective services.

In both cases, IoT can empower new insights, innovations, and business models. It can also optimize the use of assets and natural resources; reduce energy usage, emissions, and congestion; and improve efficiency and quality of life.

But it’s still early days for connected markets. To see return on their IoT investments, organizations operating in these contexts will need to identify opportunities for quick wins – while understanding that the most significant payoffs will be achieved over time.

Connecting for transformation

Connected markets can enable transformations in three key contexts:

Market insights: Consumers and citizens increasingly demand consistent and seamless experiences across time, space, and geography. IoT enables retail and other public spaces to respond. Connected markets leverage beacons, mobile connectivity, and identity solutions to understand behaviors and preferences and then deliver hyper-personalized experiences.

For instance, a leading provider of sports apparel and equipment created a customer-activity repository to achieve a 360-degree view of customers. In one initiative, the company is leveraging a customer fitness app to track running, cycling, and other sports activities to serve up personalized offers.

Rural areas: Agriculture is big business, and modern farms and ranches can be large enough that they need to be managed by aircraft and other extensive physical infrastructure. And in both developed and emerging economies, agribusiness increasingly must do more with less to feed growing populations.

Connected markets augment and transform physical infrastructure to deliver new insights and capabilities. You can capture data from agricultural equipment to improve efficiency and operation. You can connect partners up and down the supply network to create transparent and sustainable food supply chains and better manage price volatility. Satellite, GPS, cloud, and related technologies are connecting even the most remote operations, from food producers through to wholesalers, retailers, and consumers.

Urban areas: As the global population grows, it is becoming more urbanized. Today, 50% of people live in cities, and by 2050, 75% will. To manage this growth and deliver services effectively, cities will need to become more connected.

IoT enables cities to respond as the work and personal lives of citizens become more mobile and automated. It can optimize traffic, energy usage, public spaces, ports, and other physical infrastructure.

The trend has already started with simple applications like smart parking. Smart parking combines sensors, cameras, and apps to help citizens quickly find parking spaces, help cities predict parking needs, and measurably ease traffic congestion. It will continue with autonomous living choices. One example is laundry. When designing high-density housing, rather than include laundry space in every apartment, urban developers might centralize laundry, using connected technologies to optimize the experience.

In both rural and urban markets, governments have a vested interest in driving IoT deployments. But governments often lack budgets for new IT initiatives. As a result, public-private partnerships will be key to the development of connected markets.

The potential upsides of connected markets are compelling. Once a market is virtualized, the opportunities for reaching new customers, partners, and even industries grow exponentially. The organizations that figure out connected markets will gain significant first-mover advantages – and position themselves for longer-term industry leadership.

Effective IoT connectedness requires a unifying foundation. SAP has addressed this need by introducing SAP Leonardo, an innovative IoT solution portfolio designed to help organizations digitally transform existing processes and evolve to new digital models. Learn more by downloading an SAP Leonardo brochure, reading about real-world use cases, attending our flagship event Leonardo Live this summer, visiting sap.com/iot, and following us on Twitter at @SAPLeonardo.

Comments

Pushkar Ranjan

About Pushkar Ranjan

Pushkar Ranjan is part of the global Internet of Things (IoT) Go-To-Market team at SAP, where he is responsible for business development, sales enablement, and community engagement with prospects, customers, partners, and developer ecosystems in and around the topic of the IoT. Pushkar has worked with SAP for more than 15 years across disciplines of product management, strategy consulting, and operations management in the areas of customer engagement and enterprise performance management. He has academic degrees of a Master’s in Business Administration from the Indian Institute of Management with a focus in the areas of Information Systems, Strategy, and Marketing.

Heroes in the Race to Save Antibiotics

Dr. David Delaney, Joseph Miles, Walt Ellenberger, Saravana Chandran, and Stephanie Overby

Last August, a woman arrived at a Reno, Nevada, hospital and told the attending doctors that she had recently returned from an extended trip to India, where she had broken her right thighbone two years ago. The woman, who was in her 70s, had subsequently developed an infection in her thigh and hip for which she was hospitalized in India several times. The Reno doctors recognized that the infection was serious—and the visit to India, where antibiotic-resistant bacteria runs rampant, raised red flags.

When none of the 14 antibiotics the physicians used to treat the woman worked, they sent a sample of the bacterium to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for testing. The CDC confirmed the doctors’ worst fears: the woman had a class of microbe called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). Carbapenems are a powerful class of antibiotics used as last-resort treatment for multidrug-resistant infections. The CDC further found that, in this patient’s case, the pathogen was impervious to all 26 antibiotics approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In other words, there was no cure.

This is just the latest alarming development signaling the end of the road for antibiotics as we know them. In September, the woman died from septic shock, in which an infection takes over and shuts down the body’s systems, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Other antibiotic options, had they been available, might have saved the Nevada woman. But the solution to the larger problem won’t be a new drug. It will have to be an entirely new approach to the diagnosis of infectious disease, to the use of antibiotics, and to the monitoring of antimicrobial resistance (AMR)—all enabled by new technology.

But that new technology is not being implemented fast enough to prevent what former CDC director Tom Frieden has nicknamed nightmare bacteria. And the nightmare is becoming scarier by the year. A 2014 British study calculated that 700,000 people die globally each year because of AMR. By 2050, the global cost of antibiotic resistance could grow to 10 million deaths and US$100 trillion a year, according to a 2014 estimate. And the rate of AMR is growing exponentially, thanks to the speed with which humans serving as hosts for these nasty bugs can move among healthcare facilities—or countries. In the United States, for example, CRE had been seen only in North Carolina in 2000; today it’s nationwide.

Abuse and overuse of antibiotics in healthcare and livestock production have enabled bacteria to both mutate and acquire resistant genes from other organisms, resulting in truly pan-drug resistant organisms. As ever-more powerful superbugs continue to proliferate, we are potentially facing the deadliest and most costly human-made catastrophe in modern times.

“Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general for health security for the World Health Organization (WHO).

Even if new antibiotics could solve the problem, there are obstacles to their development. For one thing, antibiotics have complex molecular structures, which slows the discovery process. Further, they aren’t terribly lucrative for pharmaceutical manufacturers: public health concerns call for new antimicrobials to be financially accessible to patients and used conservatively precisely because of the AMR issue, which reduces the financial incentives to create new compounds. The last entirely new class of antibiotic was introduced 30 year ago. Finally, bacteria will develop resistance to new antibiotics as well if we don’t adopt new approaches to using them.

Technology can play the lead role in heading off this disaster. Vast amounts of data from multiple sources are required for better decision making at all points in the process, from tracking or predicting antibiotic-resistant disease outbreaks to speeding the potential discovery of new antibiotic compounds. However, microbes will quickly adapt and resist new medications, too, if we don’t also employ systems that help doctors diagnose and treat infection in a more targeted and judicious way.

Indeed, digital tools can help in all four actions that the CDC recommends for combating AMR: preventing infections and their spread, tracking resistance patterns, improving antibiotic use, and developing new diagnostics and treatment.

Meanwhile, individuals who understand both the complexities of AMR and the value of technologies like machine learning, human-computer interaction (HCI), and mobile applications are working to develop and advocate for solutions that could save millions of lives.

Keeping an Eye Out for Outbreaks

Like others who are leading the fight against AMR, Dr. Steven Solomon has no illusions about the difficulty of the challenge. “It is the single most complex problem in all of medicine and public health—far outpacing the complexity and the difficulty of any other problem that we face,” says Solomon, who is a global health consultant and former director of the CDC’s Office of Antimicrobial Resistance.

Solomon wants to take the battle against AMR beyond the laboratory. In his view, surveillance—tracking and analyzing various data on AMR—is critical, particularly given how quickly and widely it spreads. But surveillance efforts are currently fraught with shortcomings. The available data is fragmented and often not comparable. Hospitals fail to collect the representative samples necessary for surveillance analytics, collecting data only on those patients who experience resistance and not on those who get better. Laboratories use a wide variety of testing methods, and reporting is not always consistent or complete.

Surveillance can serve as an early warning system. But weaknesses in these systems have caused public health officials to consistently underestimate the impact of AMR in loss of lives and financial costs. That’s why improving surveillance must be a top priority, says Solomon, who previously served as chair of the U.S. Federal Interagency Task Force on AMR and has been tracking the advance of AMR since he joined the U.S. Public Health Service in 1981.

A Collaborative Diagnosis

Ineffective surveillance has also contributed to huge growth in the use of antibiotics when they aren’t warranted. Strong patient demand and financial incentives for prescribing physicians are blamed for antibiotics abuse in China. India has become the largest consumer of antibiotics on the planet, in part because they are prescribed or sold for diarrheal diseases and upper respiratory infections for which they have limited value. And many countries allow individuals to purchase antibiotics over the counter, exacerbating misuse and overuse.

In the United States, antibiotics are improperly prescribed 50% of the time, according to CDC estimates. One study of adult patients visiting U.S. doctors to treat respiratory problems found that more than two-thirds of antibiotics were prescribed for conditions that were not infections at all or for infections caused by viruses—for which an antibiotic would do nothing. That’s 27 million courses of antibiotics wasted a year—just for respiratory problems—in the United States alone.

And even in countries where there are national guidelines for prescribing antibiotics, those guidelines aren’t always followed. A study published in medical journal Family Practice showed that Swedish doctors, both those trained in Sweden and those trained abroad, inconsistently followed rules for prescribing antibiotics.

Solomon strongly believes that, worldwide, doctors need to expand their use of technology in their offices or at the bedside to guide them through a more rational approach to antibiotic use. Doctors have traditionally been reluctant to adopt digital technologies, but Solomon thinks that the AMR crisis could change that. New digital tools could help doctors and hospitals integrate guidelines for optimal antibiotic prescribing into their everyday treatment routines.

“Human-computer interactions are critical, as the amount of information available on antibiotic resistance far exceeds the ability of humans to process it,” says Solomon. “It offers the possibility of greatly enhancing the utility of computer-assisted physician order entry (CPOE), combined with clinical decision support.” Healthcare facilities could embed relevant information and protocols at the point of care, guiding the physician through diagnosis and prescription and, as a byproduct, facilitating the collection and reporting of antibiotic use.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s antibiotic stewardship division has deployed a software program that gathers information from electronic medical records, order entries, computerized laboratory and pathology reports, and more. The system measures baseline antimicrobial use, dosing, duration, costs, and use patterns. It also analyzes bacteria and trends in their susceptibilities and helps with clinical decision making and prescription choices. The goal, says Dr. David Haslam, who heads the program, is to decrease the use of “big gun” super antibiotics in favor of more targeted treatment.

While this approach is not yet widespread, there is consensus that incorporating such clinical-decision support into electronic health records will help improve quality of care, contain costs, and reduce overtreatment in healthcare overall—not just in AMR. A 2013 randomized clinical trial finds that doctors who used decision-support tools were significantly less likely to order antibiotics than those in the control group and prescribed 50% fewer broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Putting mobile devices into doctors’ hands could also help them accept decision support, believes Solomon. Last summer, Scotland’s National Health Service developed an antimicrobial companion app to give practitioners nationwide mobile access to clinical guidance, as well as an audit tool to support boards in gathering data for local and national use.

“The immediacy and the consistency of the input to physicians at the time of ordering antibiotics may significantly help address the problem of overprescribing in ways that less-immediate interventions have failed to do,” Solomon says. In addition, handheld devices with so-called lab-on-a-chip  technology could be used to test clinical specimens at the bedside and transmit the data across cellular or satellite networks in areas where infrastructure is more limited.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can also become invaluable technology collaborators to help doctors more precisely diagnose and treat infection. In such a system, “the physician and the AI program are really ‘co-prescribing,’” says Solomon. “The AI can handle so much more information than the physician and make recommendations that can incorporate more input on the type of infection, the patient’s physiologic status and history, and resistance patterns of recent isolates in that ward, in that hospital, and in the community.”

Speed Is Everything

Growing bacteria in a dish has never appealed to Dr. James Davis, a computational biologist with joint appointments at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago Computation Institute. The first of a growing breed of computational biologists, Davis chose a PhD advisor in 2004 who was steeped in bioinformatics technology “because you could see that things were starting to change,” he says. He was one of the first in his microbiology department to submit a completely “dry” dissertation—that is, one that was all digital with nothing grown in a lab.

Upon graduation, Davis wanted to see if it was possible to predict whether an organism would be susceptible or resistant to a given antibiotic, leading him to explore the potential of machine learning to predict AMR.

As the availability of cheap computing power has gone up and the cost of genome sequencing has gone down, it has become possible to sequence a pathogen sample in order to detect its AMR resistance mechanisms. This could allow doctors to identify the nature of an infection in minutes instead of hours or days, says Davis.

Davis is part of a team creating a giant database of bacterial genomes with AMR metadata for the Pathosystems Resource Integration Center (PATRIC), funded by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to collect data on priority pathogens, such as tuberculosis and gonorrhea.

Because the current inability to identify microbes quickly is one of the biggest roadblocks to making an accurate diagnosis, the team’s work is critically important. The standard method for identifying drug resistance is to take a sample from a wound, blood, or urine and expose the resident bacteria to various antibiotics. If the bacterial colony continues to divide and thrive despite the presence of a normally effective drug, it indicates resistance. The process typically takes between 16 and 20 hours, itself an inordinate amount of time in matters of life and death. For certain strains of antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis, though, such testing can take a week. While physicians are waiting for test results, they often prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics or make a best guess about what drug will work based on their knowledge of what’s happening in their hospital, “and in the meantime, you either get better,” says Davis, “or you don’t.”

At PATRIC, researchers are using machine-learning classifiers to identify regions of the genome involved in antibiotic resistance that could form the foundation for a “laboratory free” process for predicting resistance. Being able to identify the genetic mechanisms of AMR and predict the behavior of bacterial pathogens without petri dishes could inform clinical decision making and improve reaction time. Thus far, the researchers have developed machine-learning classifiers for identifying antibiotic resistance in Acinetobacter baumannii (a big player in hospital-acquired infection), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (a.k.a. MRSA, a worldwide problem), and Streptococcus pneumoniae (a leading cause of bacterial meningitis), with accuracies ranging from 88% to 99%.

Houston Methodist Hospital, which uses the PATRIC database, is researching multidrug-resistant bacteria, specifically MRSA. Not only does resistance increase the cost of care, but people with MRSA are 64% more likely to die than people with a nonresistant form of the infection, according to WHO. Houston Methodist is investigating the molecular genetic causes of drug resistance in MRSA in order to identify new treatment approaches and help develop novel antimicrobial agents.

The Hunt for a New Class of Antibiotics

There are antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and then there’s Clostridium difficile—a.k.a. C. difficile—a bacterium that attacks the intestines even in young and healthy patients in hospitals after the use of antibiotics.

It is because of C. difficile that Dr. L. Clifford McDonald jumped into the AMR fight. The epidemiologist was finishing his work analyzing the spread of SARS in Toronto hospitals in 2004 when he turned his attention to C. difficile, convinced that the bacteria would become more common and more deadly. He was right, and today he’s at the forefront of treating the infection and preventing the spread of AMR as senior advisor for science and integrity in the CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. “[AMR] is an area that we’re funding heavily…insofar as the CDC budget can fund anything heavily,” says McDonald, whose group has awarded $14 million in contracts for innovative anti-AMR approaches.

Developing new antibiotics is a major part of the AMR battle. The majority of new antibiotics developed in recent years have been variations of existing drug classes. It’s been three decades since the last new class of antibiotics was introduced. Less than 5% of venture capital in pharmaceutical R&D is focused on antimicrobial development. A 2008 study found that less than 10% of the 167 antibiotics in development at the time had a new “mechanism of action” to deal with multidrug resistance. “The low-hanging fruit [of antibiotic development] has been picked,” noted a WHO report.

Researchers will have to dig much deeper to develop novel medicines. Machine learning could help drug developers sort through much larger data sets and go about the capital-intensive drug development process in a more prescriptive fashion, synthesizing those molecules most likely to have an impact.

McDonald believes that it will become easier to find new antibiotics if we gain a better understanding of the communities of bacteria living in each of us—as many as 1,000 different types of microbes live in our intestines, for example. Disruption to those microbial communities—our “microbiome”—can herald AMR. McDonald says that Big Data and machine learning will be needed to unlock our microbiomes, and that’s where much of the medical community’s investment is going.

He predicts that within five years, hospitals will take fecal samples or skin swabs and sequence the microorganisms in them as a kind of pulse check on antibiotic resistance. “Just doing the bioinformatics to sort out what’s there and the types of antibiotic resistance that might be in that microbiome is a Big Data challenge,” McDonald says. “The only way to make sense of it, going forward, will be advanced analytic techniques, which will no doubt include machine learning.”

Reducing Resistance on the Farm

Bringing information closer to where it’s needed could also help reduce agriculture’s contribution to the antibiotic resistance problem. Antibiotics are widely given to livestock to promote growth or prevent disease. In the United States, more kilograms of antibiotics are administered to animals than to people, according to data from the FDA.

One company has developed a rapid, on-farm diagnostics tool to provide livestock producers with more accurate disease detection to make more informed management and treatment decisions, which it says has demonstrated a 47% to 59% reduction in antibiotic usage. Such systems, combined with pressure or regulations to reduce antibiotic use in meat production, could also help turn the AMR tide.

Breaking Down Data Silos Is the First Step

Adding to the complexity of the fight against AMR is the structure and culture of the global healthcare system itself. Historically, healthcare has been a siloed industry, notorious for its scattered approach focused on transactions rather than healthy outcomes or the true value of treatment. There’s no definitive data on the impact of AMR worldwide; the best we can do is infer estimates from the information that does exist.

The biggest issue is the availability of good data to share through mobile solutions, to drive HCI clinical-decision support tools, and to feed supercomputers and machine-learning platforms. “We have a fragmented healthcare delivery system and therefore we have fragmented information. Getting these sources of data all into one place and then enabling them all to talk to each other has been problematic,” McDonald says.

Collecting, integrating, and sharing AMR-related data on a national and ultimately global scale will be necessary to better understand the issue. HCI and mobile tools can help doctors, hospitals, and public health authorities collect more information while advanced analytics, machine learning, and in-memory computing can enable them to analyze that data in close to real time. As a result, we’ll better understand patterns of resistance from the bedside to the community and up to national and international levels, says Solomon. The good news is that new technology capabilities like AI and new potential streams of data are coming online as an era of data sharing in healthcare is beginning to dawn, adds McDonald.

The ideal goal is a digitally enabled virtuous cycle of information and treatment that could save millions of dollars, lives, and perhaps even civilization if we can get there. D!

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.


About the Authors:

Dr. David Delaney is Chief Medical Officer for SAP.

Joseph Miles is Global Vice President, Life Sciences, for SAP.

Walt Ellenberger is Senior Director Business Development, Healthcare Transformation and Innovation, for SAP.

Saravana Chandran is Senior Director, Advanced Analytics, for SAP.

Stephanie Overby is an independent writer and editor focused on the intersection of business and technology.

Comments

Tags:

Small And Midsize Businesses Have The Capacity To Drive Europe’s Future As A Digital Superpower

Katja Mehl

Part 10 of the “Road to Digital Transformation” series

Representing 99.8% of all companies throughout Europe, small and midsize businesses have tremendous power when it comes to impacting the region’s economy. One innovation at a time, they’re transforming entire industries, propelling emerging industries forward with adjacent offerings, and even supersizing a favorite childhood toy to make living conditions better for the poor and homeless. But perhaps the greatest evolution is found in the growing adoption of technology among firms.

According to the IDC InfoBrief “The Next Steps in Digital Transformation: How Small and Midsize Companies Are Applying Technology to Meet Key Business Goals with Insights for Europe,” sponsored by SAP, 35.4% of all European firms feel that their adoption of digital technology is either advanced or well underway. Germany and France are great examples of countries that are embracing advanced business networks and automation technology – such as the Internet of Things – to boost productivity and computerize or consolidate roles left empty due to long-term labor shortages.

Despite the progress made in some countries, I am also aware of others that are still resistant to digitizing their economy and automating operations. What’s the difference between firms that are digital leaders and those that are slow to mature? From my perspective in working with a variety of businesses throughout Europe, it’s a combination of diversity and technology availability.

digital transformation self-assessment

Source: “The Next Steps in Digital Transformation: How Small and Midsize Companies Are Applying Technology to Meet Key Business Goals with Insights for Europe,” IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by SAP, 2017. 

Opportunities abound with digital transformation

European companies are hardly homogenous. Comprising 47 countries across the continent, they serve communities that speak any of 225 spoken languages. Each one is experiencing various stages of digital development, economic stability, and workforce needs.

Nevertheless, as a whole, European firms do prioritize customer acquisition as well as improving efficiency and reducing costs. Over one-third of small and midsize companies are investing in collaboration software, customer relationship management solutions, e-commerce platforms, analytics, and talent management applications. Steadily, business leaders are finding better ways to go beyond data collection by applying predictive analytics to gain real-time insight from predictive analytics and machine learning to automate processes where possible.

Small and midsize businesses have a distinct advantage in this area over their larger rivals because they can, by nature, adopt new technology and practices quickly and act on decisions with greater agility. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of European firms are embracing the early stages of digitalization and planning to mature over time. Yet, the level of adoption depends solely on the leadership team’s commitment.

For many small and midsize companies across this region, the path to digital maturity resides in the cloud, more so than on-premise software deployment. For example, the flexibility associated with cloud deployment is viewed as a top attribute, especially among U.K. firms. This brings us back to the diversity of our region. Some countries prioritize personal data security while others may be more concerned with the ability to access the information they need in even the most remote of areas.

Technology alone does not deliver digital transformation

Digital transformation is certainly worth the effort for European firms. Between 60%–90% of small and midsize European businesses say their technology investments have met or exceeded their expectations – indicative of the steady, powerhouse transitions enabled by cloud computing. Companies are now getting the same access to the latest technology, data storage, and IT resources.

However, it is also important to note that a cloud platform is only as effective as the long-term digital strategy that it enables. To invigorate transformative changes, leadership needs to go beyond technology and adopt a mindset that embraces new ideas, tests the fitness of business models and processes continuously, and allows the flexibility to evolve the company as quickly as market dynamics change. By taking a step back and integrating digital objectives throughout the business strategy, leadership can pull together the elements needed to turn technology investments into differentiating, sustainable change. For example, the best talent with the right skills is hired. Plus, partners and suppliers with a complementary or shared digital vision and capability are onboarded.

The IDC Infobrief confirms what I have known all along: Small and midsize businesses are beginning to digitally mature and maintain a strategy that is relevant to their end-to-end processes. And furthering their digital transformation go hand in hand with the firms’ ability to ignite a transformational force that will likely progress Europe’s culture, social structure, and economy. 

To learn how small and midsize businesses across Europe are digitally transforming themselves to advance their future success, check out the IDC InfoBrief “The Next Steps in Digital Transformation: How Small and Midsize Companies Are Applying Technology to Meet Key Business Goals with Insights for Europe,” sponsored by SAP. For more region-specific perspectives on digital transformation, be sure to check every Tuesday for new installments to our blog series “The Road to Digital Transformation.”

 

Comments

Katja Mehl

About Katja Mehl

Katja Mehl is Head of Marketing for Europe, Middle East, and Africa at SAP.