Challenging, colourful, exploratory, fascinating, humorous, matter-of-fact, multi-faceted, outspoken, realistic, visionary: all these somewhat contradictory qualities apply to the ITIS'98 conference, a three-day full immersion into the realms of the Telemedical Information Society. East met west, south met north in lively discussions, assessing the current telemedical potential of the World Wide Web. Some speakers amazed their colleagues with state-of-the-art applications, already implemented in day-to-day health care. Others warned the audience not to loose sight of the various obstacles yet to overcome, especially with regard to high-speed networking and permanent funding. The overall impression however, left plenty of room for a message of hope and trust. Chairman Andy Marsh properly concluded: "We can do it, so why don't we?"
From April 21st to 23rd, the HPCN Europe '98 International Conference and Exhibition, held at the RAI Centre in Amsterdam, offered an ideal platform to host the first International Conference on the Telemedical Information Society. Right from the start, Dr. Roberto Viola, the general introductory key-note speaker from the European Space Agency (ESA), set the tone for the development of an information society with the use of satellite communication. The ESA organisation indeed is profiling itself as the major sponsor of telemedicine by means of satellites. Chairman Andy Marsh opened the actual ITIS Conference with a short presentation of the twenty building blocks, which form the glue for a telemedical society. The invited speakers concentrated their contributions around the specific themes of these building blocks to provoke further discussions in the fora.
The ITIS'98 organisation was glad to welcome a few official guests out of the political world, such as Dr. Renata Heimisch, member of European Parliament, Mr. Hans-Peter Axmann, from the Federal Ministry of Science and Transport in Austria, and Mrs. Vera Lapcevic, Assistant Minister in the Federal Ministry for Development, Science and Environment of the F.R. Yugoslavia. Professor Nikolaos Uzunoglu, Director of the Institute of Communication and Computer Systems in Greece, received a golden plaquette from the hands of Mrs. Lapcevic for his continuing efforts in establishing telematical scientific communication links between Greece and Yugoslavia.
The European Commission was represented by Dr. Simon Smith and Dr. Massimo Luciolli, two excellent speakers, who informed the researchers in the audience on the status quo and the future planning of telemedicine related technology projects. Since ITIS wants to create a chain of conference events as to preserve a "telemedical" continuity, Professor George Papadopoulos reported on the Euro-Med Net'98 Conference which recently took place in Cyprus, while Professor Zhang Yuan Ting already announced the EMBS'98 Conference at the end of October in Hong Kong. The latter also had an interesting contribution on the use of wireless communication for remote monitoring of physiological parameters.
The East of Europe launched some scientifically interesting demonstrations by professors Zoran Jovanovic and Emil Jovanov, and raised a voice of critical and constructive awareness during the fora. The three inspiring USA participants, Professors Richard Robb, Helene Hoffman and Sherrilynne Fuller, brought the audience under the spell of their work, respectively in the operating theatre, in the class room and in remote and icy areas of the States. The French speakers, Dr. Denis Mrejen and Professors Regis Beuscart and Jean-François Moreau, showed a practical, efficient and sober approach towards telemedicine. Dr. Tuomo Kauranne from the Finnish University of Joensuu appeared as almost omnipresent both in his talk on internet technologies for medical imaging, and in his interventions on security and Web exploitation during question rounds and fora.
The UK contributions came from Drs. Paul Garner on some astonishingly effective telemedical applications in ambulance and hospital services, and Tony King on efficient networking in a health environment. Dr. Gudrun Zahlmann offered a clear survey of telemedical projects on world level, while Dr. Bassini and his colleague reported on the results from the EC HPCN Tender'96 on diagnostic image processing. Six concised presentations dealt with general or specialised items: Mr. Adrian Munteanu elucidated the issues of wavelet lossless compression; Dr. Michael Adeyinka told the life and times of the Laboratory for Biomedical Informatics; Mr. Domenico Conforti presented two concrete telemedical tools for detecting breast cancer and EG-data; Dr. George Sakas reported on the Fraunhofer activities with regard to 3D-modelling and simulation; Dr. Despina Polemi initiated the concept of Trusted Third Parties in the security of Web applications; and Mr. Ad Emmen explained his views on the creation of a Virtual Medical Worlds Community.
The organisation committee of the first ITIS'98 Conference has a strong desire to lead the promising results and the open questions raised during the discussion rounds into well administered channels. Therefore, plans are being made to edit both a book and a special issue of Future Generation Computer Systems about the ITIS'98 event. A working group as well as a consortium will be started to monitor the establishment of the telemedical information society. It goes without saying that the Virtual Medical Worlds Magazine will closely follow all future ITIS developments.