Swansea University Professor receives prestigious fellowship for research into Digital Health

Swansea University’s Computer Science Professor Harold Thimbleby has been awarded the prestigious ‘See Change Digital Health Fellowship’ to research into computer systems in healthcare.

Prof Thimbleby’s research focus is on researching how to make hospitals safer. He is campaigning to reduce error caused by unreliable computer systems. His work covers the spectrum from psychology (human error), human computer interaction, and software engineering (making computers reliable). 

His passion for this area of digital health was sparked in 2000 when one of his students was in a road accident. He explains: ‘The student was in intensive care, and there was an infusion pump with a sign on it saying ‘Do not press the buttons.’ This made me ask the question – why? As I got to know the clinicians in hospital, I discovered more about how computer systems in healthcare regularly let people down. Unlike aviation, which is getting safer each year, computers in healthcare are in fact failing more than necessary. My interest is in showing that there are ways in which computer-related harm can be reduced.’

Harold small

Prof Thimbleby comments: “I am very excited to gain this full-time fellowship, to challenge and change healthcare computing to make it safer and more effective. The plan is to write a book joined up with media - film, lectures, TV, social - to shape and share the message. As well as working with media professionals to get a focussed high-impact message, I am working closely with healthcare professionals, regulators and industry so the message has authority and leverage. Together we will find better, safer solutions for health technology.”

Prof Thimbleby’s research has attracted £18.5M research funding to date. He has been Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award Holder and a Leverhulme Senior Research Fellow. He holds honorary fellowships of both the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the RCP Edinburgh (RCPE). He is also Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Fellow of the Institute of Engineering Technology and a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. His team won the GE Healthcare Award for Outstanding Impact in Health and Wellbeing in 2014. His website is www.harold.thimbleby.net