The Virtual Medical Worlds Community constitutes a new and dynamic concept. VMWC holds the potential of soon becoming a part of the standard vocabulary of everyone involved with telemedicine and Information Technology. During the recent ITIS-ITAB'99 Conference, the VMWC topic was introduced by Drs. Ad Emmen from Genias Benelux, who has been the major promoter of this initiative. A clear answer was offered to questions on what VMWC exactly represents, why there is an urgent need for this kind of community, how the pre-set objectives will be encountered, which type of activities currently are undertaken, and what the future plans hold in store.
VMWC is a working group which brings together on a European scale active players as well as interested parties, in order to promote the use of advanced technology. VMWC members consist of potential users in the telemedical sector, like hospitals and health care centres, as well as medical IT suppliers; advanced IT providers in the fields of virtual reality, database management, high performance computing and networking (HPCN), and Web technologies; and technology enablers in universities or research institutes. VMWC was set up to give the medical sector an opportunity to benefit from the latest developments in technology, and in particular to bring HPCN and VR knowledge to the health care sector. In turn, the advanced IT sector will acquire specific medical market information. The general aim is to boost and accelerate technical developments on a European scale.
In its capacity of Web based virtual community, the working group organizes conferences, technical meetings and workshops. VMWC has the intention of drawing up white papers, in order to conduct studies for instance market opportunities, and to create an information repository. As an independent entity, VMWC provides links to the honey-comb structured, Web-empowered Virtual Medical Worlds which have emerged from the Euromed project. At this moment, VMWC presents a wide range of information tools to the virtual community, which are accessible through the Web. Since November 1997, the VMW Magazine operates as a monthly telemedical news service, which is supported by a professional advisory board.
The Journal of the ITIS letters is an on-line journal for scientific papers with a Web based refereeing and publishing system. The ITIS Journal has links with the renowned FGCS Journal, published by Elsevier. The first trial issue will be published in June. In addition, VMWC equally hosts a member forum for discussion, a member profile pages section, and an information service. From the organizational point of view, the working group has a board to decide about the direction VMWC should move in and which members may join VMWC. The members participate in the different activities, and have access to all the information on the Web site. In fact, the membership is open to every interested party but needs approval by the board. VMWC is financed through membership fees and grants.
The first ideas and proposals for VMWC emerged in April 1998 but the group was officially launched in January 1999. At present, the membership base is being extended, whereas the VMWC board is preparing a Fifth Framework proposal for European funding to be submitted to the European Commission in the very near future. For more details on membership conditions as well as other relevant information, we invite you to check out the home page of the Virtual Medical Worlds Community.