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The CIO Interview: Hee Hwang, CIO at SNU Bundang Hospital, South Korea

Jack Loo and Zafar Anjum | Feb. 4, 2014
Hee Hwang, CIO at SNU Bundang Hospital, one of South Korea's top hospitals, explains how he zeroed in on SAP HANA to solve his hospital's data warehousing and big data issues

How did they zero in on SAP HANA for their requirements? According to Hee, it is a long story. "We have been operating our data warehouse system since 2004, but there were a lot of problems in the previous version of the data warehouse system," he says. "The first problem is the (system's) velocity. For the retrieval of data for a certain period, such as 3 months or 6 months or 1 year, it took 30 minutes to more than 1 hour. The second problem was that very valuable information was input into the forms of the free text from the clinicians to the medical chart, to finish the documentation."

The third problem was around big data issues. The quality of data was not good and data volume was very high because free text data existed along with image data. So data analysis was not easy for the hospital staff.

When Hee heard about big data solutions in 2010, he asked his staff to look at all the offerings in the market and they finally settled for SAP HANA. "After the 1 year project, we launched our next generation data warehouse system this July (2013), and every doctor in our hospital was very happy to see that, because retrieval of 10 year old data for a very complicated query now just took 3 to 5 seconds," Hee says.

With the deployment of SAP's HANA database (DB), patient care improved visibly and long-held assumptions were also broken with real-time feedback.

For example, in South Korea's hospitals, including SNUBH, the practice was to administer pre-operative 3rd-line antibiotics for 5 to 6 days. In contrast, the U.S. medical association advises hospitals to administer 1st-line antibiotics for 1 to 2 days before surgery. The longer use of 3rd-line antibiotics - which is stronger - would lead to viruses building up resistance to the drug and might prolong medical care.

"With real-time feedback [via HANA] over days and weeks, [our] doctors began to reduce the use of antibiotics," he says. "Within 3 months of adopting such a clinical indicator, usage dropped from 5.8 percent to 1.2 percent. The use of 3rd-line antibiotics went down to zero percent."

"This is of huge clinical significance to the patient because unnecessary antibiotic usage makes drug resistant organisms in individual patients, so the reduction of antibiotic usage is very critical for the long-term clinical outcomes," Hee adds.

The fact that HANA DB was originally developed by Korean scientists was also a point of attraction for Hee and his team, the CIO admits

A valuable system 

How did Hee persuade his CEO to invest in an expensive tool such as SAP HANA? The truth is that our hospital does not want to lose its leading edge in IT over other competitor hospitals in South Korea or in the region, Hee says. "So, making the investment decision was not so difficult for our hospital," he says. Secondly, "the medical legal suing" problem is a huge economic burden for the hospitals. We assume that we can avoid many legal suits from the patient through this kind of data warehouse quality control system, he says. "It has really impacted the hospital reputation and the hospital's economic situation."


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