This eBook was intended to be the Proceedings of the dHealth 2020 annual conference event on the general topic of “Health Informatics meets Digital Health”. As of this writing, however, we had to cancel the physical event as a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis that had gained control of Austria and most other home countries of our international authors and visitors. Nevertheless, we decided to go ahead with publishing the proceedings. On the one hand side, to keep the momentum and to avoid an empty space in the rather long row of proceedings of this conference, which spans 14 years already. On the other hand, we think that this year’s special topic: “Biomedical Informatics for Health and Care” is also very timely. We chose it to indicate that, already today, but even more in the future, ICT systems in healthcare and biomedical systems and devices will increasingly be intertwined. Both scientific disciplines, i.e. biomedical engineering and health informatics, are obviously closely related to each other and it is often difficult to delineate where the one ends and the other begins.
Successful healthcare depends on the complete chain of flow of information from the sensor via multiple steps of processing to the actuator, which can be anything from a human healthcare professional to a robot. Along this pathway, methods for automating the information processing, like signal processing, machine learning, predictive analytics and decision support, play an increasing role to provide actionable information and to support personalized and preventive healthcare concepts, in both biomedical and digital healthcare systems and applications.
Moreover, since 2007, this series of annual conferences has been organized by the joint working group for “Medical Informatics and eHealth” of the Austrian Society for Biomedical Engineering (OEGBMT).
and the Austrian Computer Society (OCG).
This unique group was founded in 1981 and, since then, has been a forum for the many scientists, experts and practitioners with a stake in both worlds, the world of Biomedical Engineering and Medical Informatics. As such, this year’s subtitle was also motivated by making this long-lasting partnership more explicit.
In these times of the COVID-19 crisis, it becomes evident not just to the ones deeply involved in health technology and health care, but for the general public as well, that data collected from many individuals, collected from different sensors (lab tests, body temperature values, etc.) are essential to assess the situation and inform the process of developing strategies to get this crisis under control from the epidemiological point of view. However, we also need the actuators, in this case ventilators, to finally deliver life support to severely ill patients, and the data provided by these systems need to be collated and fed into systems that provide actionable information to the healthcare professionals at the front line. This is extremely important in such a crisis situation, where the number of affected patients exceeds any previously conceived dimension and, at the same time, a server shortage of knowledgeable healthcare professionals happens.
With a deadline for submission at the end of January, none of the papers deals with the pandemic directly. Nevertheless, many of the papers in the proceedings deal with important aspects in that respect. Now, the described innovations in the realms from telehealth to decision support systems need to be focused on application fields like monitoring COVID-19 patients at home as long as possible or to analyze the EMR data from hospitalized patients in order to help healthcare professionals prioritize their limited resources.
In conclusion, we need to learn fast a lot of new things to navigate this situation. No matter what our specific discipline is, we need to devote our skills and energy to help managing this so far unprecedented situation.
Graz, April 2020