Researchers from more than 20 countries met this week at UCF to discuss emerging trends and technologies that are guiding the design and development of health care systems.

They gathered for the 21st annual conference of the Society for Design and Process Science, held Dec. 4-6 at the university’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management and coordinated by the College of Health and Public Affairs.

SDPS is a worldwide organization with more than 400 invited members, many of whom attended the conference. The meeting drew experts in engineering, computer science, health administration and other disciplines to share and discuss novel, multidisciplinary approaches to organizing resources that deliver health care services.

“Health care is a constantly changing field,” said Thomas Wan, associate dean for research at COHPA and co-chair of the conference with Yong Zeng from Concordia University in Montreal. “The best way to address its challenges and opportunities is to think broadly, integrate ideas from multiple disciplines and collaborate.”

For example, a team of experts from health information technology, industrial engineering and chemistry made a presentation on their use of technology to implement a new diagnostic test for prostate cancer that operates securely and improves the delivery of care to patients.

Wan, faculty researchers from the college’s Departments of Health Management and Informatics, Health Professions, and Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Schools of Public Administration and Social Work, along with students and alumni from the Doctoral Program in Public Affairs, shared their research and ideas at the conference through workshops, poster sessions and paper presentations (highlighted in the conference schedule).

A workshop led by researchers from the HMI department and University of Alabama at Birmingham focused on issues surrounding the enormous amount of health data generated by electronic medical records, billing systems, clinical research, hospital evaluations, long-term care facilities, mobile health devices and other sources.

Computer engineers and health information experts are among the professionals working together to develop systems that connect these sources in a way that makes the data accessible and useful to physicians and other health care providers.

The conference also included presentations on other topics in design and process science, such as designing “smart cities,” mobile and cloud computing, and big data strategies for business.

Among the keynote speakers were Frank Wilczek, a Nobel laureate in physics from MIT, and Douglas Stone, an award-winning physicist from Yale. Speakers from Central Florida included Wan; Tom O’Neal, associate vice president of research and commercialization at UCF; Randy Berridge, president of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council; Deborah German, dean of the College of Medicine at UCF; and Maj Mirmirani, dean of the College of Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Wan and HMI Assistant Professor Raj Gurupur found it especially satisfying to see the international gathering. When Gurupur learned the society might not hold a conference this year, he approached Wan with the idea of hosting it at UCF. Wan went on to develop a winning proposal to hold the event at the university in Orlando.

“It was a great opportunity to present UCF in such a positive light to an international group of academics,” said HMI Associate Professor Donna Malvey.

On the last day of the meeting, SDPS presented Wan with its Excellence in Leadership Award for his role in organizing this year’s conference.

The conference sponsors included UCF (Department of Health Management and Informatics, College of Health and Public Affairs, and Office of Research and Commercialization), Society for Design and Process Science, Florida High Tech Corridor Council, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.