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Harnessing the power of data for healing

Databricks helps Ontada generate insights for cancer treatment development

1 hour

Up to 8x reduced time to complete data requests


Amount of employees’ time saved by helping to streamline compliance oversight


“With Databricks and Delta Sharing, we have a comprehensive end-to-end ecosystem that enables us to gain deep insights in the oncology realm.”

— Kiran Reddy Nomula, Director of Data Management, Ontada

Ontada is an oncology technology and insights business dedicated to helping advance cancer research and care. As part of the technology suite, they own iKnowMed, an award-winning electronic health record (EHR) system specifically developed for oncology providers. In 2022, Ontada’s legacy on-premises infrastructure was slowing their ability to extract value from clinical data, a process that ultimately helps with improving the quality of patient care and the development of new treatments. Ontada turned to Databricks for a modern data management solution, adopting the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform to consolidate their infrastructure, eliminate manual processes, extract clinical insights, and seamlessly and securely share data with partners across McKesson’s oncology ecosystem and the broader life sciences ecosystem using Delta Sharing.

Legacy technology can’t keep pace with next-gen needs

As a McKesson Corporation business, Ontada is part of a broader oncology ecosystem. This ecosystem uses iKnowMed, an oncology electronic health records (EHR) system that provides comprehensive clinical support for both providers and patients, leveraging a library of oncology treatment regimens. Ontada supports more than 2,400 community-based providers, enabling them to operate more efficiently, support value-based care and optimize revenue cycles.

However, as the volume of data grew, Ontada’s on-premises data storage struggled to keep up. While the company was able to build data products, the adoption curve lagged behind expectations, hindered in part by the complex models the company used for its data warehouse. Implementing a full set of governance policies — essential for an enterprise data platform storing sensitive and highly regulated clinical data and protected health information (PHI) — was also complex.

The rising volume of data also created a ceaseless demand for curation and optimization. “The way the business was evolving, there was a need for more and more data curation,” Kiran Reddy Nomula, Director of Data Management at Ontada, said. “It was a challenge to meet this demand given the number of manual processes and the complexity of our current technological infrastructure. Additionally, extensive code optimization work was necessary, consuming significant time and resources.”

Sharing data with partners across the organization was also essential for the business, but the legacy setup made that a largely manual, cumbersome process. This was complicated further by the need for strict governance of health data. Extracting files within the legacy system required constant updates and manual validations. These manual processes also introduced many opportunities for human error and required staff resources. Ontada needed a modern solution to address their needs.

Streamlined, speedy data processing and sharing

Ontada selected Databricks to help build a next-generation data platform. One major factor was the opportunity for data consolidation to generate cost savings and efficiency. Using the Databricks Platform enables Ontada to unify, streamline and automate data processes, keeping data in one place and eliminating time-consuming and error-prone manual work. The company can now avoid data duplication and multiple processing cycles to save the team time, as well as reduce storage, compute and labor costs.

Delta Sharing simplified and strengthened the company’s governance, access, filtering and audit processes. With the evolving nature of regulation and compliance requirements in the healthcare industry, ensuring the right data access controls for users can be challenging. Databricks makes it simpler for the company to ensure that users comply with regulations and that data is protected appropriately. Change tracking is seamless, so Ontada can have a streamlined and centralized change management process across all their customers.

Delta Sharing also allows the company to share data far more efficiently than in the past, speeding up delivery of data — both raw and curated — to partners.

The Databricks Platform also helps Ontada’s ecosystem easily and quickly add new data sources and securely share targets as the system continues to grow. With Delta Sharing, Ontada only needs to process the data once in their environment and leverage it across their oncology ecosystem. “With Databricks and Delta Sharing, we have a comprehensive end-to-end ecosystem that enables us to gain deep insights in the oncology realm,” Nomula said.

Cutting costs and increasing innovation

“Databricks has brought tremendous value to Ontada in managing our data assets and accelerating innovation,” Nomula said.

The company has reduced costs, increased computing capabilities and can scale the system along with data growth. Data delivery is much faster — customer requests that used to take over eight hours to process can now be completed in an hour. Ontada can also save time and redirect specialized resources to new product development. These significant results have empowered the company to focus on the bigger picture and expand their vision to innovate and serve their customers. “All of the positive gains we’ve made using Databricks and Delta Sharing become very powerful when you think about the high level of data completeness and data quality we are bringing to the marketplace,” Nomula said.

Looking to the future, Nomula explained his team is excited to continue to help Ontada improve the lives of millions of cancer patients by continuing to collaborate with Databricks. Specifically, they plan to expand the use of Delta Sharing to external partners for faster, secure and more efficient data sharing. They are also exploring natural language processing (NLP) technologies to integrate unstructured data into the Data Intelligence Platform to help accelerate the discovery of life-saving approaches to cancer diagnoses and treatments. “We are constantly in innovation mode,” Nomula said. “We want to learn and work with our partners at Databricks to see what else we can bring to the table in terms of speed and innovation.”