Keynote Speeches

Keynote Speech I

Improving safety in medical devices and systems
Harold Thimbleby
Professor of Computer Science, Swansea University, UK

We need to improve healthcare technologies — electronic patient records, medical devices — by reducing use error and, in particular, unnoticed errors, since unnoticed errors cannot be managed by clinicians to reduce patient harm. Every system we have examined has multiple opportunities for safer design, suggesting a safety scoring system. Making safety scores visible will enable all stakeholders (regulators, procurers, clinicians, incident investigators, journalists, and of course patients) to be better informed, and hence put pressure on manufacturers to improve design safety. In the longer run, safety scores will need to evolve, both to accommodate manufacturers improving device safety and to accommodate insights from further research in design-induced error.

Harold Thimbleby, HonFRSA, FIET, CEng, FRCPE is in Swansea University’s Department of Computer Science, Wales — one of the world's most beautiful Universities. He is a well-known computer scientist (he has been a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit award holder and a Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellow), but he became concerned about healthcare when one of his students ended up in intensive care. He has since been working on human error and system design to make healthcare safer. His 2007 book on his work Press On (MIT Press) won two international prizes. Although a computer scientist, he was recently elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh.

Keynote Speech II
Watson, Cognitive Computing and Healthcare

We have solid ideas about the flawed state of healthcare, the critical need for change and the future we want. Improving health outcomes while controlling costs and personalizing healthcare are among the objectives. It is clear that enabling the transformation of healthcare will require making better decisions. At the same time we are dealing with huge and expanding volumes of data. We will need tools to help us gather and analyze data to bring relevant information to decision makers so that it easier to obtain evidence-supported choices. Unstructured, text-like content is a large fraction of the data we rely on for decisions. Up until recently we have had limited ability to use unstructured material effectively. IBM’s Watson, with its ability to understand the nature of a question being addressed and to read and understand huge volumes of literature, makes such material more approachable. However, making medicine more precise mandates the use of other forms of data, and population observational techniques. Predictive analytics, to identify people that need specific attention, and comparative analytics to elicit evidence from populations that can be applied to individuals, are part of the process. IBM has developed robust resources that provide such information.


Dr. Kohn is Chief Medical Scientist for Care Delivery Systems in IBM Research.  He is a leader in IBM’s effort in collaborative care for addressing the challenges to primary care and access to healthcare.  He also supports the transformation of healthcare and development of accountable care organizations.  His research work includes healthcare population analytics and the role of expert systems in the clinical decision process, including the use of the Watson supercomputer in healthcare.  He speaks frequently on the issues on healthcare transformation, the role of information technology, the Patient Centered Medical Home and clinical decision support.  Dr. Kohn is a co-author of IBM’s white paper “Patient-Centered Medical Home – What, Why and How.”  He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Emergency Medicine.  Dr. Kohn was previously in IBM Healthcare Strategy and Change which helped healthcare systems and clinicians optimize process and make best use of health information technology.  He has published multiple articles and book chapters on both clinical and management subjects.  Dr. Kohn is an emergency physician with over 30 years of hospital-based practice and management experience.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians and the American College of Physician Executives.

Keynote Speech III

Digitally Revealing the Dynamics of Your Superorganism Body

Larry Smarr
Founding Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2)
Harry E. Gruber Professor of Computer Science and Information Technologies, University of California, San Diego, USA

For over a decade, Calit2 has had a driving vision that healthcare is being transformed into “digitally enabled genomic medicine.” To put a more personal face on the "patient of the future," I have been increasingly quantifying my own body. In addition to external markers I also currently track over 100 blood and stool biomarkers every few months. Calit2 uses advanced interactive visualization techniques to visually explore my organs. Using my saliva obtained 1 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in my human DNA. My gut microbiome has been metagenomically sequenced by the J. Craig Venter Institute, yielding 25 billion DNA bases. I will show how one can use this Big Data approach to decipher the complex dynamic interactions between the various components of my immune system and the human and microbial DNA present in my “superorganism” body. Doing so in my case led to the unexpected diagnosis of a chronic incurable disease. My hope is that by "living in the future" I can provide some early insights into the digital transformations of wellness and health care.


Larry Smarr is the founding Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and the Harry E. Gruber professor in UCSD’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). Before that he served as founding Director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He serves on the NASA Advisory Council to the NASA Administrator, the DOE ESnet Policy Board, and chairs the NSF Advisory Committee on Cyberinfrastructure. For eight years he was a member of the NIH Advisory Committee to the NIH Director, serving 3 directors. His life-streaming portal is

The slides of the keynote speaker, Prof. Larry Smarr, are available here.