Over the last four years, a community of researchers working on Grid and High Performance Computing technologies started discussing the barriers and opportunities that grid technologies must face and exploit for the development of health‐related applications. This interest lead to the first Healthgrid conference, held in Lyon, France, on January 16th–17th, 2003, with the focus of creating increased awareness about the possibilities and advantages linked to the deployment of grid technologies in health, ultimately targeting the creation of a European/international grid infrastructure for health.
The topics of this conference converged with the position of the eHealth division of the European Commission, whose mandate from the Lisbon Meeting was “To develop an intelligent environment that enables ubiquitous management of citizens' health status, and to assist health professionals in coping with some major challenges, risk management and the integration into clinical practice of advances in health knowledge.” In this context “Health” involves not only clinical procedures but covers the whole range of information from molecular level (genetic and proteomic information) over cells and tissues, to the individual and finally the population level (social healthcare). Grid technology offers the opportunity to create a common working backbone for all different members of this large “health family” and will hopefully lead to an increased awareness and interoperability among disciplines.
The first HealthGrid conference led to the creation of the Healthgrid association, a non‐profit research association legally incorporated in France but formed from the broad community of European researchers and institutions sharing expertise in health grids.
After the second Healthgrid conference, held in Clermont‐Ferrand on January 29th–30th, 2004, the need for a “white paper” on the current status and prospective of health grids was raised. Over fifty experts from different areas of grid technologies, eHealth applications and the medical world were invited to contribute to the preparation of this document.