The opportunities to apply grid computing methods in health care are, simply put, enormous. (Irving Wladawsky-Berger refers to it as the "ASCI of Grid" to imply that the challenges are comparable in their extreme scale to those tackled by the DOE ASCI program in simulation. That is an understatement.) There is an urgent need for community, best practices, standards, and the like.
These considerations motivated the formation of the HealthGrid.US Alliance (HG.US), a partnership of scientific, medical and technology professionals from academia, industry and government, whose shared mission is to promote the application of advanced information technology to solve cutting-edge problems in Biomedical Science and Healthcare. HG.US is an affiliate of the international HealthGrid Association.
As a first action, HG.US is sponsoring the first HealthGrid Annual Meeting to be held outside of Europe, in Chicago, Illinois, USA, June 2-4 2008. See the announcement (pdf). The previous five meetings (2003-2007, held in Europe, have formal published proceedings that are also available from the website.
Many biomedical and health related problems are characterized by diverse collaborators needing access to great quantities of complex heterogeneous data, which is distributed across multiple computing systems, maintained by loosely connected institutions, often across international boundaries. Example projects addressing these challenges include sharing datasets to enable a cure for cancer (caBIG, ACGT) and science portals that enable neuroscientists to better visualize the morphology of the brain (BIRN). These and other projects have begun to demonstrate the power and potential of the Grid approach in biomedicine.
Initially, Grid technology development was driven by computing needs of the particle physics research community and enabled by the availability of high-performance networks. The term "grid" rapidly evolved toward a concept of ubiquitous and transparent computing to support a wide variety of applications, and builds on the well-known metaphor of the pervasive "electricity grid". Today, the HealthGrid space represents some of the most interesting drivers for progress in knowledge-based ubiquitous and transparent computing.
The international HealthGrid Association, based in Europe, provides a firm conceptual foundation for efforts in the US and is fully supportive of the HealthGrid.US Alliance. A HealthGrid white paper articulates the broad scope of the concept. US government agencies have begun to develop complementary strategies. These have been captured in TATRC's Integrated Research Team strategic report on HealthGrid: Grid Technologies for Biomedicine and the US Government interagency HealthGrid Core Strategic Planning Group.