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Cardiff hosts HealTAC 2019: the UK Healthcare Text Analytics Conference

26 April 2019

Researchers, patients, clinicians and various organisations united in Cardiff to explore the latest developments in processing healthcare free text and share experience, results and challenges.

Healthcare narratives recorded in documents such as clinical notes, letters, social media posts and literature represent a key communication stream that contains a wealth of actionable and contextualised information. Despite being increasingly available in a digital form, they are yet to be routinely analysed and are integrated with other healthcare data on a large scale.

HealTAC 2019 is the second in a series of UK healthcare text analytics conferences hosted by the UK healthcare text analytics network (HealTex) that aims to address this issue.

The conference, held on 24-25 April in Cardiff, brought together a multi-disciplinary network of academic, clinical, industrial and patient communities to address common challenges in processing healthcare free text, sharing best practice and exploring key results.

Amongst the events 100+ attendees were academics from the UK and international universities, patients and clinicians from public and private healthcare, as well as individuals from a selection of global businesses.

The programme featured research papers, discussion panels, an industry forum, software demos, a PhD forum and poster sessions, plus insightful presentations from keynote speakers Professor Hongfang Liu, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Professor Stephane Meystre, Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

Hongfang Liu is a professor of biomedical informatics and a consultant in the Department of Health Sciences Research at Mayo Clinic. As a researcher, she is leading Mayo Clinic’s clinical natural language processing (NLP) program with the mission of providing support to access clinical information stored in unstructured text for research and practice.

Dr Meystre is Founding Director of the Translational Biomedical Informatics Center at MUSC. He has developed and evaluated NLP systems for clinical practice and research and led several projects applying NLP to clinical text for automatic text de-identification, or clinical information extraction.

Professor Irena Spasić, Co-founder of the HEalTex network, said: “We have seen evidence of a strong cross-disciplinary community emerging involving researchers, patients, clinicians and industry. HealTex has catalysed wider participation and new collaborations between institutions, which was apparent from the feasibility studies presented at the conference."

Dr Sumithra Velupillai from King’s College London, added: "HealTex is actively nurturing a new generation of scientists in healthcare text analytics. The PhD forum at the conference provides an opportunity for PhD students at various stages of their projects to showcase their research to a wide audience. The conference format has been designed specifically to offer an opportunity to receive detailed feedback from the best researchers in health sciences and text mining alike."

The conference’s main sponsor was EPSRC via the UK Healthcare Text Analytics Network. It was also supported by the Connected Health Cities, the SAIL databank and Data Innovation Research Institute at Cardiff University, as well as Averbis Text Analytics and DeepCongito.

The next conference will take place in 2020 and will be organised by Kings College London.