Medical informatics as a discipline is not very old, yet in the fifty years of its existence some shifts in interest have occurred. The development and evaluation of information systems has been there from the beginning. This topic was driven by technology changes (new database approaches, progress in electronic communication and standardization issues, etc.). In the first decades research was also devoted to investigating basic medical and biological processes. The analysis of signals, for example EKGs, EEGs and signals from chemical analyzers images was an important research area. Emphasis was initially on data analysis techniques but gradually shifted to interpretation of the processed data by means of statistical and pattern recognition methods. This trend continued and gradually the emphasis shifted from the provision of information to the provision of knowledge.
At present computers are ubiquitous. New technologies make computers almost invisible. Nanotechnology provides important extensions to our armamentarium. Computing based on DNA and enzymes is currently investigated in several research centers. Such computers can help us for example to determine certain pathological cells in tissues and when detected the “computers” release a drug to kill these cells. Ubiquitous computing will support our aging societies. People can stay longer at home with the help of computers that monitor them.
Some of the problems that we have to solve – apart from technical ones – in our opinion are reminiscent of the problems we had to solve in the beginning of medical informatics. But now we have the advantage of hindsight.
About three hundred manuscripts were submitted and finally 143 of them were accepted. We thank all the reviewers for their work. Without them it would have been impossible to obtain a program with a quality as the one that is presented in this Proceedings. We are also very much indebted to NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) that provided grants for inviting two keynote speakers.
We are sure that the program contains interesting information for a broad audience. We wish you a happy stay in Maastricht and much pleasure in reading articles from this Proceedings.
Arie Hasman, Reinhold Haux, Johan van der Lei, Etienne De Clercq, Francis H. Roger France