Helsinki Distinguished Lecture: Sumi Helal "Digital Health: Back to the Future"

This lecture is part of the Helsinki Distinguished Lecture Series on Future Information Technology, organized by HIIT, a joint research institute between University of Helsinki and Aalto University.
Sumi Helal

Digital Health: Back to the Future

Sumi Helal
Lancaster University


The vision and hope of Digital Health is to transform the current fragmented and reactive primary care system (a point-of-care paradigm) into an integrated, proactive Health Navigator – a continuum-of-care paradigm capable of providing personalized and timely guidance and just-in-time interventions, while availing real-time, individual- and population-level health information to individuals, healthcare organizations, governments, and policy makers. In this talk, I will provide a critical review of the key advances achieved in the past 20 years but also the mistakes, missed opportunities, and in general lessons learnt. I will present 7 key such lessons and close by summarizing the challenges ahead and potential paths forward.


Sumi Helal, is professor and Chair in Digital Health at Lancaster University, UK, where he leads interdisciplinary research initiatives in digital health in both the School of Computing and Communications (Faculty of Science and Technology) and the Division of Health Research (Faculty of Health and Medicine). As Director of Lancaster University’s Center on Digital Health and Quality of Life Technologies, he leads several active projects on Connected Health Cities, Healthy New Towns design and implementation, suicide prevention using cybernetics and analytics, Airport Accessibility for the hearing impaired, and intelligent primary care GP-Patient interactions. He is a board member and lead of the digital health infrastructure and strategies in the Fylde Whyndyke Garden Village – one of ten NHS England Healthy New Towns development project (a 1400-unit, green grass development which provides for a unique opportunity to embed health elements, by design, in public areas, neighbourhoods, and the town community hub (school, wellness center and health care facility), to promote health and wellbeing, active and healthy living and ageing, prevent illnesses and improve people’s quality of life.

Before joining Lancaster, Prof Helal was a Computer & Information Science and Engineering Professor at the University of Florida, USA, and Director of its Mobile and Pervasive Computing Laboratory. He co-founded and directed the Gator Tech Smart House, a real-world deployment project that aimed at identifying key barriers and opportunities to make the Smart Home concept a common place (creating the “Smart Home in a Box” concept). His active areas of research focus on architectural and programmability aspects of the Internet of Things, and on pervasive/ubiquitous systems and their human-centric applications with special focus on smart spaces, proactive health/wellness, patient empowerment and e-coaching, and assistive technology in support of personal health, aging, disabilities, and independence. Professor Helal served as the Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Computer (2015-2018), the Computer Society’s flagship and premier publication. He currently serves as member of the Board of Governors of the IEEE Computer Society, and Chair of its Magazine Operational Committee. Professor Helal is a Boilermaker (Ph.D., Purdue University, class of 1991), Fellow of the IEEE, Fellow of the IET, and a 2020 IEEE Computer Society President-Elect nominee. Contact him at [email protected]

The Helsinki Distinguished Lecture Series on Future Information Technology is organized by HIIT, a joint research institute between University of Helsinki and Aalto University. The series was launched in 2012.

The focus of the seminar series is to highlight the research challenges and solutions faced by current and future information technology, as seen by the internationally leading experts in the field.

Venues alternate between University of Helsinki and Aalto University, the two host universities of HIIT.

Web page: Helsinki Distinguished Lecture Series on Future IT

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