Innovation Helps the German National Bone Marrow Donor Registry Save Lives

The German National Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ZKRD) is rapidly transforming key processes to ensure that patients around the world receive lifesaving treatment when they need it.

Under Germany’s “Stifter helfen” initiative, a portal through which nonprofit organizations receive access to donated IT resources, the ZKRD is using a business process transformation solution from the SAP Signavio portfolio. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this solution helped safeguard the critical processes that thousands of cancer patients across the globe rely on to receive urgent stem cell donations. By taking a flexible approach, the organization managed to overcome the obstacles it faced – and advanced its digital transformation and knowledge management strategy at the same time.

Complex Processes, High Data Volume

The ZKRD coordinates all the data used to search for suitable stem cell donors in Germany. The largest data hub of its kind in the world, it holds the details of more adult, unrelated donors than any other national registry. The organization also works with numerous transplant centers, donor files, search and collection units, and cord blood banks to enable stem cell donations to be used for patients in countries across the globe. “Around 40% of stem cell donations worldwide originate from Germany. Speed and safety have top priority in our day-to-day business,” says Dr. Joachim Neller, business development, ZKRD.

Transport Processes Demand Precision

International stem cell transports take place daily. They involve a complex set of processes and are required to meet the most stringent safety standards. Many of the formalities are dealt with in advance to avoid the risk of delays during transportation. Most importantly, donated stem cells must be accompanied to their destination: a courier picks them up from a designated collection center and delivers them personally to the transplant center where the patient is to receive them.

Professional process management is central to the transportation process, as Dr. Neller explains: “For medical reasons, patients must receive stem cell donations no later than 72 hours after they have been extracted. Where stem cells are destined for Australia, for example, every second counts.”

Time is therefore a key metric in assessing whether the processes being used to transport stem cells meet the requirements. The coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions it entailed, including border closures and bans on passenger flights, made already challenging conditions even harder to deal with in 2020 and 2021.

“The processes we modeled with SAP Signavio solutions helped us tackle the obstacles we faced and, working with our partners, we were very quickly able to set up an alternative transportation process. This meant we could continue delivering stem cell donations to patients on time,” says Dr. Neller.

This alternative process included handling agents and cargo plane pilots to ensure that lifesaving donations could still reach patients within the 72-hour time limit.

Process Management Paves the Way for Digital Transformation

The introduction of a standardized process management solution at the ZKRD revolutionized the way the organization approaches both process documentation and collaboration. Lengthy documentation has been replaced by process diagrams, which are quick to create. This in turn has enabled the ZKRD to streamline its knowledge management and process standardization. Through SAP Signavio Process Collaboration Hub, employees have access to relevant processes at any early stage and can take targeted action to help optimize them. The ZKRD uses approval workflows in its standard work instructions: by automating individual process steps, any changes to those instructions can be reviewed and approved quickly.

“The SAP Signavio solutions enabled us to make significant progress on driving our digital transformation and process standardization forward, and on improving our knowledge management. Because, with the process map as the starting point, it is easy for me as a user to see at a glance where to start, what the individual steps in the process are, and whether certain documents or software are required,” says Sonja Schlegel, public relations, ZKRD.

Automation and Customer Journey Modeling

“We’d been pioneers of the paperless office for a long time. But we still had a few paper-based operations. Invoice processing was one. We recently used SAP Signavio solutions to streamline it by automating and partially automating the steps involved,” explains Dr. Neller. The organization benefited from these IT-based and automated processes straight away. When the pandemic hit, employees at the ZKRD were able to transition to working from home overnight.

The ZKRD plans to expand its use of customer journey modeling in the future, focusing not just on the internal view of its processes, but taking the “outside-in” perspective of its partners into account as well. This will be crucial in helping the organization improve global processes for everyone involved and adjust them quickly when required. It also plans to automate operational business decisions in change and error management and thus adopt professional processes to replace its homegrown legacy ones.

Process management will remain central to the ZKRD’s operations because the “business value” it creates is clearly significant in terms of giving patients a second chance at life. Those patients need to receive the best possible product – as quickly as possible. That can only happen with the right combination of seamless, efficient processes, reliable risk management, and experienced employees.