Computing and Healthcare: New Opportunities and Directions


There are now substantial opportunities for fundamental innovations in healthcare via advances in computing principles and applications. The opportunity for innovation is enhanced by the increasing availability of health data, the drop in cost and ubiquity of powerful, networked sensors and computing devices, and the increasing competency of methods and algorithms for analyzing data to provide insights, diagnoses, predictions, and recommendations.

Research advances that will lead to transformative innovations in health and healthcare will require deep collaborations between health and computing researchers. Likewise, improvements in population health will require innovation in the application of computer science to problems that impact the health of the public. Although rich and fruitful activities and distinct subdisciplines (e.g., medical informatics and bioengineering) have evolved at the intersection of these realms, we believe that there are great opportunities ahead for building additional bridges. Catalyzing new connections between and among medicine, social and behavioral science, public health, and computing will help to enhance individual and population health and promote healthy living on the path to a health system that is agile, that is oriented to evidence-based health outcomes, that is capable of achieving improved chronic care, and that leverages the pervasive availability of computing technologies.

The goal is to bring together these diverse communities in order to foster learning, discussion, and, ultimately, collaboration among them. These discussions will facilitate new funding opportunities that will emphasize such collaborative efforts.

Mechanism and Plan:

An invitation-only symposium spanned these communities. The symposium centered on the following four general themes:

  • Exploiting data in abundance: What would it mean to "replace infrequent, clinic-based measurements by unobtrusive, continuous sensing, monitoring and assessment, thereby creating individualized baselines"? How can patient data be federated to promote both personal and public health? How can new information sources such as social media play a role? What are near-term opportunities for the identification of risk of onset of chronic disease?
  • Creating systems for truly collaborative care: What are the opportunities for changing the physician/individual practice orientation to care to a collaborative network involving multiple practices, physicians, nurses, educators, caregivers and patients? How do we store, move, convey, and exploit patient information in such a setting? What are the opportunities for efficiencies or for new models of patient-centered care?
  • Focusing on patient engagement: The traditional view of medicine is one of reactive acute and chronic care, driven by the actions of the physician. How do we create proactive systems and policies that extend care beyond the traditional spatial and temporal boundaries of medicine to persuade, engage and support individuals, families and communities as they strive to improve their health? Near-term opportunities include employing compelling, easy to use and highly adaptable information technologies to the ongoing management of confirmed disease.
  • Population-scale systems for health: At the population/geospatial level, influences on health only partially derive from the various forms of healthcare. Natural, built, social and policy environments that promote, rather than hinder, healthy behaviors; environmental contaminants and stressors; social, mobile and web technologies that engender learning and behavioral improvements aimed at prevention and health promotion - these all comprise the ecosystem of health that needs to be understood, modeled, and optimized.

Rather than focusing solely on pointwise systems and advances, organizers emphasized the value of taking a systems view of health, leveraging synergistic opportunities across the larger health ecosystem rather than being satisfied with "local optimization" of specific areas/applications within it.

The symposium included efforts to nurture connections between computing and social-behavioral systems research. Many facets of healthcare research center on the characterization and study of the social-behavioral components of health, disease, and healthcare. There is great potential in bridging the rich traditions, methods, and goals of social-behavioral healthcare research with the latest advances in ubiquitous computing, human-computer interaction, user modeling, and leveraging principles of machine perception, learning, and inference. Important challenges, many already defined in healthcare research, demand the collaboration of these two, largely disparate communities of investigators.

Anticipated Output:

The symposium brought together individuals representing a wide range of interests and expertise. Therefore, it is anticipated that new interdisciplinary collaborations—spanning clinicians, public health experts, biomedical informaticists, computer scientists, and social-behavioral scientists—will continue to emerge. In addition, it is hoped the participants will take the discussions and results of the symposium back to their communities to foster increased interest in Computing Health and prime further engagement on the part of the research community.

A separate result of the symposium is a report describing a set of basic research questions to be tackled at the intersection of computing and health. This report will be circulated widely to the research community as well as funding agencies, in hopes of driving forward transformative research and informing future funding opportunities.



Day 1

7:30 am – 8:30 am


Session 1: Setting the Stage; Creating an Agenda

8:30 am - 9:00 am

Welcome and Introductory Remarks
Gregory Hager and Elizabeth Mynatt,
Symposium Co-Chairs

Remarks from the NSF and NIH
Howard Wactlar, NSF
Milton Corn, NLM
Bradford Hesse, NCI

9:00 am - 9:45 am

Opening plenary
Dr. Michael McGinnis – Senior Scholar, Institute of Medicine

Session 2: Exploiting Data in Abundance

10:00 am -11:00 am

Panel Presentations
Eric Horvitz (Chair), Microsoft Research
Gregory Abowd, Georgia Institute of Technology 
Tanzeem Choudhury, Cornell University
Madhu Reddy, Pennsylvania State University 
Suchi Saria, Johns Hopkins University

11:00 am –12:30pm

Breakout Groups
Population-level health
Inpatient care
Outpatient care
Mental health
Wellness and staying healthy
Legal and social issues

Session 3: Collaborative Care
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm

Working lunch

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm

Panel Discussions:
Christopher Chute (Chair), Mayo Clinic
Kay Connelly, Indiana University
Connie Delaney, University of Minnesota
Robert Kolodner, Open Health Tools
William Stead, Vanderbilt University

2:00 pm – 3:30 pm

Breakout groups
Distributed care coordination
Health information exchange, data standards and methods
Data granularity and interoperability
Shared knowledge, workflow, and decision support
Longitudinal data, linkage, aggregation

Session 4: Research Networking
4:00 pm – 4:45 pm

Computing Focus Areas
Machine Learning and Data Analytics
Mobile Computing
Privacy and Security
Human-Computer Interaction and Robotics
Social and Collaborative Computing

4:45 pm – 5:30 pm

Healthcare Focus Areas
Critical Care and Interventional Medicine
Chronic Care and Outpatient Management
Wellness and Disease Prevention
Behavioral Science and Mental Health
Public/Population Health

5:30 pm – 6:30 pm


Day 2



Session 5: Patient Engagement
9:00 am – 10:00 am

Panel Discussions:
Elizabeth Mynatt (Chair), Georgia Institute of Technology 
Susan Bakken, Columbia University
Maja Mataric, University of Southern California
Katie Siek, University of Colorado at Boulder
Bonnie Spring, Northwestern University

10:00 am – 11:30 pm

Breakout Groups
Interaction design
Mobile computing
Disparities – designing for diversity
Behavior and attitude change: theory and design
Social engagement – activating the social sphere

12:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Working Lunch

12:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Symposium Summary and Next Steps
Gregory Hager (Chair), Johns Hopkins University
Deborah Estrin, Cornell Tech, NYC
Kevin Johnson, Vanderbilt University
Elizabeth Mynatt, Georgia Institute of Technology


Dr. Michael McGinnis
Senior Scholar, Institute of Medicine
Slides from Plenary Session. 


Christopher G. Chute
Professor, Medical Informatics, Division of Biomedical Statistics and Informatics, College of Medicide, Mayo Clinic

Deborah Estrin
Professor, Computer Science, Cornell Tech, NYC
Co-Founder, Open mHealth

Erwin P. Gianchandani
Director, Computing Community Consortium, Computing Research Association

Susan Graham
Pehong Chen Distinguished Professor Emerita, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, University of California at Berkeley

Gregory D. Hager
Professor and Chair, Department of Computer Science, The Johns Hopkins University

Eric Horvitz
Distinguished Scientist, Microsoft Research

Kevin B. Johnson
Professor and Chair, Biomedical Informatics, Professor, Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Elizabeth Mynatt
Professor, School of Interactive Computing, Director, Institute for People and Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology

Kevin Patrick
Professor, Department of Family and Preventative Medicine Director, Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, University of California at San Diego



Discovery and Innovation in Health IT

Center for Health Organization Transformation - 2012 Semi-Annual Fall Meeting

Rock Health Innovation Summit

Digital Health Conference

Health 2.0

Strata Rx: Making Health Data Work



Full Report

- [Computing and Healthcare: Workshop Report]