Co-creation to guide the future of healthcare and computing research


On 21 March 2018, researchers, hospital practitioners and industry partners gathered in Copenhagen to discuss and shape the data-driven future of healthcare.

The event was organised by the ACM FCA Co-creation group with Naja L. Holten Møller (University of Copenhagen), Jørgen P. Bansler (University of Copenhagen), Sunyoung Park (University of Michigan), and Marianna Obrist (University of Sussex) as primary organizers.

Co-creation to bring computing research into conversation

The overall goal of the ACM FCA Co-creation working group is to develop operating principles for inclusive computing, taking co-creation as a starting point to tackle fundamental issues in society. By applying a co-creation approach, computing research is brought into conversation with its surroundings and facilitates opportunities for inclusivity, allowing other types of expertise to influence our research agendas. Essentially, co-creation is an approach and a set of ‘tools’ to loosen boundaries and shift the power balance by inviting experts in the broadest sense of the word to influence computational research.

Based on this first Co-creation event in Copenhagen on data-driven healthcare, we now know more about the challenges that practitioners and industry partners want future computing researchers to focus on. As one of the nurses expressed, it is crucial that researchers working in data-driven healthcare consider “how do we allow for creativity [for people working on the ground]? Creative thinking and creative problem solving needs to be enabled by future computing”, as we think through what makes a desirable technological future, says Naja L. Holten Møller.

This art-inspired piece is a poster consisting of pictures of artifacts that were brought along by the workshop participants. These artifacts represent the past and the present, used to imagine and think through what are the important aspects in shaping the data driven future of healthcare. It is open to interpretation. The spectator is invited to consider how we can shape a humane and desirable data driven future by design, when applying different readings of this collection of artifacts as imaginaries of the future across healthcare and computing.

Co-creation as ‘incubator’ for inclusive computing

For the ACM researcher thinking through societal challenges that lack their own technical methods and rigor can produce new types of insights like the nurse’s request for computational systems that does not prohibit her creative development of future clinical practice – or the CEO’s idea of real-time data mining as a pointer of the hospital operation.

Co-creation allows us to gain new types of insights into how computation becomes more inclusive. The nurse on the ground possesses one kind of expertise, which can provide us with different insights than expert research partners – but it is the successful combination of different types of insights that makes co-creation an interesting approach. One of the operating principles is the shifting of power dynamics that may be achieved by considering who gets to speak about these issues and enter into conversations with computing researchers, which was also one of the principles that were applied in the Copenhagen event.

The first co-creation event gives evidence to co-creation as an ‘incubator’ for inclusive computing and concrete ’tools’, which researchers coming from all corners of computing can be inspired by and easily introduce into other contexts. For example, “live” tweets documented key points from the event and are open for others to interact with even after the event. Also, the event was followed up by two pieces visualizing in different ways key points arrived at in the dialogue between experts and computing researchers.

This prototype of an animation video is another example of how co-creation ‘tools’ may be explored – communicating what practitioners, researchers and industry partners posed as important concerns and questions across healthcare and computing. For example, it was questioned why electronic health records are increasingly designed to mimic a personal stock exchange for handling of data.