Using Cloud technology to improve breast cancer detection

For successful business intelligence software developer Yellowfin, every job is important. However, the work it is doing with Volpara Solutions to better assist in the early detection of breast cancer to proving to also be incredibly satisfying.

Founded in 2009, Volpara Solutions HSSA has developed a suite of quantitative breast imaging products – VolparaDensity, VolparaDose, VolparaAnalytics, VolparaResearch and now VolparaEnterprise – which are used in 34 countries to assist in the early detection of breast cancer. To date over nine million women have been scanned by VolparaDensity.

Despite advances in recent times, around 16,000 Australian women – along with a comparatively small number of men – will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016.

With annual numbers like that, it’s not surprising that many people have been touched by breast cancer – either first hand or through knowing someone with the disease.

That’s why Glen Rabie, Yellowfin’s co-Founder and CEO, said the Yellowfin team was especially delighted to be working with Volpara Solutions. “We have offices around the world and many of our staff have first-hand experience of the upheaval that occurs to everyone – the patient, family and friends – when someone is diagnosed with breast cancer,” Mr Rabie said. “To think that we might be playing a part in helping to ensure earlier, and more accurate, detection is really satisfying.”

To think that we might be playing a part in helping to ensure more accurate and earlier detection is really satisfying

Mammography has long been the baseline screening tool in breast cancer screening programs, but its effectiveness for women with dense breast tissue has been questioned because potentially cancerous tissue can be masked. Research suggests that having dense breast tissue is also a breast cancer risk factor in itself, adding even higher risk than having a family member diagnosed with the disease for example.

VolparaDensity provides an automated, quantitative estimate of breast density, removing the challenges of radiologists having to visually assess breast density, which several studies have shown to be highly variable. Women who have very dense breasts can then be recommended for adjunctive screening such as Ultrasound or MRI, depending on the facility’s resources.


Yellowfin recently entered the picture when Volpara Solutions wanted to cement its position as a market leader by seeing if clinicians could be given the ability to quickly access and act on the large amount of clinical and scientific data that the software was generating.

Volpara Solutions’ development team initially created a successful proof of concept using a Web-based dashboard and Microsoft SQL Server. Feedback gathered during that phase indicated that Volpara would benefit from integrating a third-party Business Intelligence (BI) platform into its analytics product, VolparaEnterprise, in order to revitalise its offering and get it to market fast.

By partnering with Yellowfin and Microsoft as its technology partners, Volpara Solutions was empowered to deliver a world first cloud-based analytics service that improves decision-making to assist in early breast cancer detection, assist with quality control and ensure breast screening centres get the best productivity from staff and resources. Volpara Solutions was able to take a proof-of-concept design and develop it into a sales ready product in just a few months.

“We wanted to deliver an analytics application of superior usability, functionality and appearance,” said Volpara Solutions Technical Sales Manager, Paul Clancy. “Our goal was to create an engaging user experience that made it fast and easy for clinicians to independently access, understand and act on data to make the best fact-based decisions possible.

“We knew the VolparaDensity suite of breast imaging products was producing a significant volume of valuable, actionable clinical data — we just needed something to quickly get this data in front of the right people, in a professional format.”

The platform needed to be easy for potentially non-technical people to use, with an intuitive interface. “At a more technical level, it also had to be cloud deployable to align with our strategic plan for Volpara Solutions’ future products, while also having the capacity to be rebranded and ‘white labeled’,” Mr Clancy said.

It also had to be cloud deployable to align with our strategic plan for Volpara’s future products, while also having the capacity to be branded and ‘white labelled’

The multi-award winning company was founded in 2003 by Glen Rabie (CEO) and Justin Hewitt (COO) – two Melbournians who had worked in technology for years they believed they could do it better.

By integrating Yellowfin’s BI platform into its new VolparaEnterprise analytics solution, Volpara Solutions’ data analysts can easily design the right reports, charts and dashboards for each category of client and user – allowing business people to see high-level statistics, while clinicians, scientists can quickly analyse detailed data, drilling down to whatever level is desired.

“Within a few short weeks, our development team was up to speed and building really comprehensive, personalised content for different user types and screen sizes – even mobile devices,” Mr Clancy said.

Volpara Solutions also cited easy configuration and simple integration with its SQL Server database, as well as the ability to translate both system information and content in Yellowfin, as technical reasons underpinning the partnership decision. Yellowfin’s multi-language support capabilities give Volpara Solutions the capability to launch VolparaEnterprise in the likes of Japan, Korea and Continental Europe.

To fit in with its future product strategy, Volpara Solutions has deployed Yellowfin as a hosted solution on Microsoft Azure. Volpara’s on-premise server sends data in XML form to a SQL database, which is read by Yellowfin.

“We have designed our current on-premise software to leverage Azure’s blob storage, SQL database and secure cloud upload technology,” Mr Clancy said. “What makes Azure even more attractive is that Yellowfin has a preconfigured virtual machine available in the Azure Marketplace.

“This means that a Yellowfin virtual machine can be deployed literally in seconds, and the on-premise solution can easily be connected to begin processing mammograms. This allows us to scale up swiftly and deploy solutions to our clients without issue or complexity.”

What makes Azure even more attractive is that Yellowfin has a preconfigured virtual machine available in the Azure Marketplace  

Volpara Solutions’ aim is to boost the early detection of breast cancer and enhance clinical decision-making, enabling medical practitioners to quickly analyse and utilise the data to allow them to take the best course of action to save lives.

“Integrating Yellowfin’s BI solution into the VolparaEnterprise analytics product delivers a huge amount of useful data in highly intuitive formats,” Mr Clancy said. “These data-driven insights allow clinicians and managers to make important decisions, enabling them to deliver the best possible treatments and patient outcomes.”

The VolparaEnterprise solution, powered by Yellowfin’s BI platform and Microsoft Azure, offers users a complete overview of their mammography practice — from the patients with whom they consult, to the quality of mammograms taken and how their machines and operators are performing. Users can even drill down to determine the quality of individual mammograms.

Ultimately, the solution could enable hospitals, clinics and breast screening throughout the world to directly impact the health of their patients, by improving efficiency and spotting potential quality issues, thereby giving patients being examined the confidence that they are screened in the optimum manner.

And that, said Yellowfin’s Glen Rabie, “is something of which we are very proud.”

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