Saving Patient Lives with a Tech Innovation That Cuts Medical Error

BrandPost By Keith E. Greenberg, SAP Contributor
Jun 13, 20225 mins
Data Management

In a dramatic step toward eradicating medical error, software developers XANTAS worked with SAP to create a Critical Decision Support System to accurately read lab values and help clinicians make informed decisions.

Credit: © Stefan Straube/UKL

On a human level, Joerg Telle understands why medical errors occur.

“You have to think about the day-to-day life of a clinician,” the COO of German software development company XANTAS AG observed, “and how laboratory values (measurements determining a patient’s health) can be overlooked. You may be coming out of surgery and have too much to do. You could be changing shifts and certain information is not communicated.”

Either way, the consequences can be severe. Approximately 70% of critical decisions in diagnosis and treatment involve laboratory diagnostics. In the United States, medical error – much of it based on unnoticed or misinterpreted lab values – is the third most common cause of death.

What had been lacking was a system to digitally fuse important data.

To Telle, the development of XANTAS’ Clinical Decision Support System (CDSS) has been one of the proudest moments of his professional career, equipping medical professionals with the ability to make informed clinical assessments.

“Other companies use software to rescue money and process,” Telle said. “We have something that rescues people’s life.”

Crossing at the green

It is no coincidence that the CDSS was built on solutions developed by SAP, specifically the SAP HANA database system. After all, XANTAS was founded in 2007 specifically to create software for data analysis software in hospitals – all based on SAP technology.

“A couple of the founders had worked for SAP,” Telle said, “and came together to concentrate on this niche area of hospital analytics. I also started at SAP and began working on data warehousing there. When you focus on the data that you have in hospitals, all the patient details, it’s just massive, much more than in a retail company or a manufacturer. This is really, really complex and it took me a couple of years to gain the knowledge.”

But since XANTAS’ founding, that type of knowledge has been used to assist staff at more than 100 hospitals in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

The research project AMPEL would be launched with a grant from the government of Saxony, along with the expertise of a team of doctors, medical students and other experts associated with University Hospital in Leipzig, one of the oldest such facilities in Germany and the first in Saxony to do robot- and computer-assisted surgery.

The starting point was XANTAS’ existing SAP-based clinical data warehouse named VISMEDICA.  SAP HANA provided the toolbox for the various functions.

The goal was ensuring that lab specialists’ findings were never lost in translation.  

In German, the acronym for this CDSS is AMPEL, a term that took some deliberation to conceptualize. “AMPEL is the German word for ‘traffic light,” Telle explained. “And that’s how I see this system. If you look at a chart that lists the patients, you will see colors next to them.  Green means the patient is okay. Red means the situation is critical.”

The online chart would also register constraints on how much time attending physicians had to address the patients’ conditions. One notation could read, “12 hours,” another “six hours.” If the circumstances were particularly severe, the entry would scream, “Immediately.”

Power of knowledge

The CDSS was launched in 2019 in a hospital system that contained 50,000 cases. The clinical data warehouse analysis is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, both online and via text.

The fate of more than a million inpatients and outpatients was instantly impacted. The medical centers reported a 21% rise in the ability to control a potassium condition called severe hypokalemia, while there was a 21% reduction in the progression of acute kidney injuries.

By clicking a checkbox, clinicians could confirm that the lab values had been seen and action was being taken. 

If a doctor had questions about a particular ailment, the messages included a link to medical studies on the topic.

Earlier this year, the creation of the CDSS resulted in XANTAS qualifying as a finalist at the 2022 SAP Innovation Awards, a yearly event celebrating organizations using SAP technology to make a difference.

“Artificial intelligence is the next step,” Telle said. “Clinical decision support is not new. But when you combine it with machine learning algorithms, you can do good things.”

To learn more about XANTAS’ solution that saves people’s lives, read their 2022 Innovation Awards pitch deck.