Attending AWS re: Invent, Amazon Web Services’ First Global Customer and Partner Conference: What’s The Healthcare Angle?

[CW: I promised to update this blog post after the conference, but wrote a complete new post instead: 2012 Amazon Web Services (Health) User Conference Trip Report: Sounds Like (Nine)Teen(99) Spirit]

I’ll be/I am/I was (depending on when you read this) attending AWS re: Invent, Amazon Web Services’ first Global Customer and Partner Conference on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week. I’ll be looking for the healthcare angle to Amazon’s vision of cloud computing.


The conference runs (ran) from 11/27-11/29 in Las Vegas. I’ll tweet about it, so I embedded a couple tweets streams below. I’ll favorite tweets for later. After the conference I’ll replace the live tweets with a retrospective of my favorite favorites. I’ll use the short URL during the conference, if you want to look up a session (deep linking to specific sessions doesn’t work, so see below). If you’re not on Twitter, stay tuned to this page. If you are on Twitter, you can follow me at @EHRworkflow.

Here are my recent tweets. During the conference they’ll likely be about the conference. Before and after (before I edit this post) you’ll see non-conference-related tweets.

Tired of listening to me? Here are recent tweets containing the #AWSreInvent hashtag. Most of these will be posted from other folks tweeting about the conference, but you may also see a couple of mine fly by. Sorry about that.

Here on some abstracts from some of the 150+ sessions that caught my eye before the conference. While AWS re: Invent is not an industry vertical-oriented health IT conference such as HIMSS and AMIA, most of the following topics have implications for computing in healthcare: cloud, workflow (or course), security, mobile, games, data science/big data, etc. I won’t necessary go to every one (Look! Something shiny!). But I’ll probably go to a lot of them. I’ll update this blog post after the conference. So check back.

Scaling Your Application’s Work in the Cloud with Simple Workflow

Dealing with scale and concurrency in today’s web and mobile services can require complex business logic in your application. To achieve high scale in the cloud, often developers have to coordinate and track state for steps in application processes distributed across remote data centers. Come to this session to learn how Amazon Simple Workflow (SWF) manages and coordinates your application sequences in “workflows” by our AWS pay-as-you-go service. We will walk through real-world examples of customers who are basing their high-scale, fault-tolerant applications on Simple Workflow today.

Security In the AWS Cloud

There are so many different thoughts about how to secure your applications running in AWS that it can be confusing to know where to start. In this session, we cover tips, tricks, and emerging best practices for securing your applications. We discuss topics ranging from how to configure your AWS resources to options for logging and intrusion detection. Discover that running your applications in AWS gives you a great head start.

Building a Mobile Application Platform on AWS

Get under the hood with’s founder to see how they used AWS to build their mobile Platform as a Service. In this session, you learn how Parse is using a variety of AWS services including Amazon EC2, S3, ELB, EBS and Route53 to build data storage, push, and easy upload services for mobile developers.

Distributing Work in the Cloud with Amazon’s Simple Workflow (SWF) and the Flow Framework

Applications today can span on-site and off-site environments, as well as across multiple compute resources in the cloud. Come learn how to simplify your application’s state management, asynchronous tasks and work distribution with Amazon Simple Workflow (SWF). During this session, you will learn how to use the SWF Flow Framework to define your application logic in “workflows” that are managed at high-scale and with fault-tolerance by Amazon SWF.

Meteor Entertainment’s Lessons Learned and Best Practices for Game Developers

Game developers need to spend their time building new games and features, not managing infrastructure. Meteor Entertainment has learned how-to minimize the time they spend managing infrastructure by automating deployments, monitoring systems through log analysis, and by making their data tier easy to scale. Attend this session to hear all about Meteor’s best-practices.

How to Deploy Python Applications on Elastic Beanstalk

(Hey! I like Python.)

Learn how to configure, deploy and scale a Python application running on Amazon Elastic Beanstalk. This talk uses two samples, a simple url shortening API built using Flask, and an image processing app built using Django, to demonstrate how to quickly get up and running on Amazon Elastic Beanstalk. In addition to learning best practices, the talk covers performance tweaks, and options for scalable data storage including S3, DynamoDB and RDS.

Data Science with Elastic MapReduce

In this talk, we dive into the Netflix Data Science & Engineering architecture. Not just the what, but also the why. Some key topics include the big data technologies we leverage (Cassandra, Hadoop, Pig + Python, and Hive), our use of Amazon S3 as our central data hub, our use of multiple persistent Amazon Elastic MapReduce (EMR) clusters, how we leverage the elasticity of AWS, our data science as a service approach, how we make our hybrid AWS / data center setup work well, and more.

Solving Big Problems with Big Data

The problem of big data is not only that it is capacious, but that it is also heterogeneous, dirty, and growing even faster than the improvement in disk capacity. One challenge is then to derive value by answering ad hoc questions in a timely fashion that justifies the preservation of big data. A group of us from databases, machine learning, networking, and systems just started a new lab at University of California, Berkeley, to tackle this challenge. The AMPLab is working at the intersection of three trends: statistical machine learning (Algorithms), cloud computing (Machines), and crowdsourcing (People). One of the driving applications for the AMP Lab is cancer genomics. Over the next several years, gene-sequencing technologies will begin to make their way into medicine, offering the most complex tests available. This advance brings a new type of data with tremendous promise to help elucidate physiological and pathological functions within the body, as well as to make more informed decisions about patient care. The cost of genome sequencing is projected to fall within range where it may be used for diagnostic and treatment purposes within the next two years. Due to the overwhelming amount of information returned by these tests, direct human interpretation is not feasible, and therefore will have to be guided by computational methods and visualization. The use of sequencing information has debuted in cancer. A provocative hypothesis is that the massive growth of online digital descriptions of tumor cell genomes will enable computer scientists to help make breakthroughs in cancer treatment, perhaps even within the next few years. Learn about the frightening fractions of cancer, dramatic speedups in genomic data processing by using cloud computing, and the blurring between opportunity and obligation when dealing with a problem that affects the lives of millions of people.

Big Data Masterclass

Learn how engineers at startups and larger enterprises use data to drive greater insight into their operations, customers, and business in this lively discussion of big data techniques and tools. From Hadoop to data warehouses, this panel discusses the tools, techniques, tips, and tricks for building data driven teams and delivering cost optimization at scale.


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  1. workflow system
    Posted December 26, 2012 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    b-workflow is a intutive workflow management software which help to increase process improvement , operational improvement, site audit and operating compliance with business safety legislation.

  2. Posted December 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    [3/1/13 Update: I removed the link to http: //www . bworkflow . com/overview at the commenter's request]

    As blog moderator I don’t OK comment spam (let alone reply in length!). Like any blogger, I get lots of “Great article! Made me think. Keep up the great work,” with a link back to something that has nothing to do with this blog. I also get a fair amount of generic comments about EHRs in general, with a link back to an EHR vendor’s website. Unless a comment mentions one or more themes of this blog (workflow, natural language processing, usability, etc., in a healthcare context) I usually don’t OK those either.

    I searched the Web for your comment text (”b-workflow is a intuitive workflow management software which help to increase process improvement , operational improvement, site audit and operating compliance with business safety legislation”) and got lots of hits.

    I also found this ODesk job description for writing SEO-oriented content…

    However, I also checked the link to b-workflow (”Intuitive Workflow Management Software”) at . I liked what I saw!

    I don’t see any healthcare specific use cases, but I imagine b-workflow could indeed be used so.

    “b-workflow allows you to define processes that span across people.” (in traditional EHRs process “definition” is implicit and hardcoded, therefore hard to understand or improve)

    “Model complicated processes through Lingo script a Domain Specific Language (DSL) designed specifically to model checklists.” (Checklists! See below)

    “Proprietary scripting language developed, ‘Lingo’, eliminating programming” (Not Adobe Director’s Lingo, right?)

    “You can complete your checklists using a PC, Mac, Smart Phone (IPhone, Android) or tablet device.” (Native or HTML5?)

    All of these topics are highly relevant to what I write and tweet about.

    Checklists are a big topic of conversation in healthcare. In fact, they are a natural intersection between aviation modern traditions of safety and workflow technology in healthcare. As a graduate student in Industrial Engineering I worked as a research assistant to write a program to analyze pilot error during aviation emergencies. We compared paper versus computerized checklists.

    Rouse, S. H., Rouse, W. B., and Hammer, J. M. (1982). Design and evaluation of an on-board computer based information system for aircraft. IEEE Transactions on System, Man, and Cybernetics, 12, 451-463. (I’m in the acknowledgements)

    I write about checklists in a blog post about adaptive case management. (see table, seventh entry)

    Domain-specific programming languages allow domain experts, who are not Java or C# programmers to “program” (or at least more easily customize) EHR and health information system workflow.

    The use of checklists in conjunction with mobile platforms such as smartphones and tablets is a great fit. I see other BPM vendors heading in this direction. It’s inevitable that EHRs will become more-and-more process-aware, gradually incorporating more-and-more workflow engine, process definition, and case management technology.

    I’d love to see some healthcare-specific case studies and use cases. Workflow management systems and business process management suites have tremendous potential (in healthcare) in the areas you mention: process improvement, compliance, and safety.

    I see you’re also recent joined Twitter, at . (I followed you, I hope you’ll follow me at ) We have an excellent conversation going on among fans of workflow (and language) tech in healthcare. Join the party!

    Anyway, I hope you’ll come back with a less rote, less obviously SEO-motivated, contribution to an important conversation I am trying to foster.



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