Methods Inf Med 2023; 62(05/06): 202-205
DOI: 10.1055/s-0043-1777733
Meeting Report

Report from the 68th GMDS Annual Meeting: Science. Close to People

Jonas Bienzeisler
1   Institute of Medical Informatics Medical Faculty of RWTH Aachen University, Aachen
Ariadna Perez-Garriga
1   Institute of Medical Informatics Medical Faculty of RWTH Aachen University, Aachen
Lea C. Brandl
2   Institute of Telematics, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany
Ann-Kristin Kock-Schoppenhauer
3   IT Center for Clinical Research, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany
Yasmin Hollenbenders
4   Center for Machine Learning, Heilbronn University of Applied Science, Heilbronn, Germany
Maximilian Kurscheidt
5   GECKO Institut, Heilbronn University of Applied Science, Heilbronn, Germany
Christina Schüttler
6   Medical Center for Information and Communication Technology, University Hospital Erlangen, Erlangen, Germany
› Author Affiliations

The 68th Annual Meeting of the German Association for Medical Informatics, Biometry, and Epidemiology (GMDS) e.V. took place from September 17 to 21, 2023, in Heilbronn, Germany. The conference focused on the latest research and technologies in medical informatics, biometry, epidemiology, and medical documentation. The conference was hosted by GMDS Conference Presidents Dr. Monika Pobiruchin and Professor Alexandra Reichenbach, with the Scientific Programme Committee being expertly led by Prof. Dr. Martin Haag.

The GMDS is an independent scientific and medical society based in Cologne, Germany. Established in 1956, it has approximately 2,000 members. It is the primary forum for exchanging scientific information in the German-speaking realm in associated areas of expertise including medical informatics, biometry, epidemiology, bioinformatics, and systems biology. The GMDS is a national member society of the European Federation for Medical Informatics (EFMI). The GMDS convenes annually to foster exchange, enrich educational practices, and cultivate a community deeply engaged in the latest advancements in the field.

The GMDS and the Methods of Information in Medicine have long been intertwined in their pursuit of advancing medical informatics. This enduring relationship dates back to the late 1970s, with the first conference reports from GMDS being published in Methods of Information in Medicine in 1978[1] and 1979.[2] In 1994, the GMDS and the International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA) convened together in Heidelberg and Heilbronn.[3] Moreover, the GMDS was featured in the Methods of Information in Medicine editorials, which presented the GMDS' concept and vision. Perhaps most emblematic of this enduring partnership was the article titled “Tradition is not preserving the ashes, it is passing on the fire,”[4] authored by A. Winter, former Editor in Chief R. Haux, and H. Bickeböller, which highlighted the strong cooperation between GMDS and Methods of Information in Medicine.

Following the challenges of recent years, which resulted in three conferences planned in Kiel and Berlin to be held in digital format, the 68th annual meeting was finally able to proceed in person again, graciously hosted by Heilbronn University of Applied Science (HHN). Themed “Wissenschaft. Nah am Menschen” (“Science. Close to People”), the conference took place at the Bildungscampus Heilbronn. The Bildungscampus is a unique location, filled with various educational institutions constructed to promote lifelong learning and scientific inquiry. Around 800 participants attended the conference and took part in a broad range of program contributions such as practical workshops, tutorials, talks, and posters. The conference covered the focus topics of human factors in health sciences, education in health sciences, analytics in health care, sustainable technical systems in health care, international perspectives on health, precision medicine, and systems biology. It provided an overview of the latest developments in medical informatics, encompassing areas such as clinical decision support systems, data privacy, and artificial intelligence. This breadth of topics provided attendees with valuable insights into current research trends, which were published in the conference proceedings.[5]

The conference included keynote presentations from experts representing the different scientific disciplines that fall under the purview of the GMDS and also adjacent fields. Representing such an adjacent field, Prof. Dr. Elena Link gave an insight into the complexities of science communication. She emphasized the need for a critical and reflected dialog between scientists, politicians, and the public. Prof. Link dissected the communication of scientists during the coronavirus pandemic and discussed potential strategies for improving public trust in science. In a tribute to Olli S. Miettinen (1936 − 2021), Prof. Dr. Albert Hofman gave a talk on the transformation of epidemiology over the last decade. He highlighted Miettinen's seminal works such as “Theoretical Epidemiology” and his influential paper on case-referent studies. Vesa Jormanainen, MD, MSc, presented the implementation and postdeployment status of the national Health Information Systems (HIS) and Health Information Exchange (HIE) in Finland. He emphasized the involvement of both public and private sectors in eHealth in Finland. Finally, James Carpenter addressed the practical and methodological issues surrounding missing data in research. He introduced the TARMOS framework and its implementation to the audience.

A specialized session on utilizing routine data from German University Hospitals was organized by Dr. Marie Gebhardt, Prof. Dr. Hans-Ulrich Prokosch, Prof. Dr. Scherag, and Dr. Philip Kleinert. They explored the utilization of routine data from university hospitals for medical research purposes through the Research Data Portal for Health (Forschungsdatenportal für Gesundheit, FDPG). The work showed how the Medical Informatics Initiative (MII) infrastructure can support researchers, especially during proposal submission and data utilization. In another focal poster session, Prof. Dr. Andreas Mayer and research associate Simon Schweizer led discussions on data protection and IT security in health care. The poster presenters showcased their work on IT tools that allow for the secure and privacy-preserving sharing of health data for research purposes. A subsequent tutorial on “SMART on FHIR—Secure Future of Digital Medicine?” elucidated the potential of SMART on FHIR standards in enabling flexible health data exchange. The standard that has already gained traction in the United States is now establishing itself in Europe as well. Sebastian Uschmann's tutorial on Blockchain provided a critical yet refreshing examination of the technology's very limited use cases in the health care context.

To acknowledge outstanding papers, the Expert Committee on Medical Informatics, the Expert Committee on Medical Biometry, and the Presidential Commission for the Promotion of Young Talents in the GMDS (PK Nachwuchsförderung) hosted a session to present the Best Paper Award this year. In advance of the annual meeting, the six best full paper submissions were determined in a review process and the authors were invited to present their work at the Best Paper Award Session. After the final review, the paper “Concept graphs: a novel approach for textual analysis of medical documents” by Franz Matthies et al[6] prevailed and was honored with the Best Paper Award and prize money.

For the first time, the Local Organizing Committee, in collaboration with the Presidential Commission for the Promotion of Young Talents in the GMDS, organized a summer school on the weekend before the annual conference. For those still in the early stages of their career, the Summer School served as an excellent platform to expand their specialized knowledge, get acquainted with various methodologies from adjacent research fields, and benefit from networking and exchange opportunities. The program targeted master's students and young doctoral candidates who were interested in the various domains covered by the GMDS. In four sessions, representatives from the specialized shared methods relevant to their specific areas of expertise and showed links between the domains. Additionally, a panel discussion was held on the first day with a focus on career options in science, in which the participants reported on their careers and shared the experiences they gained on their career paths in industry and academia. A social program provided opportunities for exchange and networking with speakers and other participants.

Concurrent with the GMDS annual meeting, a celebratory event was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the Medical Informatics program at Heilbronn University, a cooperative program with the University of Heidelberg initiated in the winter semester of 1972/1973. Two keynote speeches encapsulated the essence of this milestone, emphasizing the importance of device security in health care and offering insights into the long-term success and future of the Medical Informatics program. Most notably, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Marie Moe, an IT Security Expert from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, discussed both the vulnerabilities in medical implants and her own lived experience with a pacemaker, a device implanted in her own body that could potentially be a security risk. Her story, involving a near-crisis event attributed to data corruption possibly caused by cosmic rays, highlighted the critical need for robust IT security in health care devices. The conference side program included activities such as city tours and wine tastings, along with a gala dinner. The dinner was complemented by the musical talents of GMDS members, who excel in not only data harmonization but also vocal harmonization. The conference proudly featured a conference choir comprising attendees, performing for the audience at the gala dinner together with the GMDS All-Stars. The band was formed during a spontaneous performance of “Knocking on Heaven's Door” at the 2014 GMDS annual conference in Göttingen. Inspired by the success of their first performance, they are a regular feature at every GMDS conference. The current lineup includes musicians Prof. Dr. Albrecht Zaiss (saxophone), Prof. Dr. Andreas Goldschmidt (electric guitar and second voice), Prof. Dr. Heinz Handels (acoustic guitar and vocals/first voice), Prof. Dr. Rainer Röhrig (drums), Prof. Dr. Ulrich Sax (electric bass), and Sebastian Semler (keyboard and backing vocals), together with the newest addition to the ensemble, Torben Hess (saxophone). For young scientists, there was the opportunity to take part in the Young Scientist Night. There, after a long day at the conference, they could attend a networking event with their peers and make first acquaintances in their field of research. These will help strengthen the bonds forged during the conference and create a network that is so important, especially in the early stages of their career.

The 68th GMDS Annual Meeting not only served as a premier forum for scientific exchange in medical informatics, biometry, epidemiology, and medical documentation but also successfully embodied its motto, “Science. Close to the People.” The 69th GMDS will be held under the motto “Gesundheit – gemeinsam denken, forschen, handeln” from September 8 to 13, 2024, in Dresden. The conference will bring together the leading professional societies in the fields of epidemiology, social medicine and prevention, medical sociology, and public health, including the DGSMP, DGEPI, DGMS, and DGPH ([Figs. 1] and [2]).

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Fig. 1 After hours, scientists from GMDS had the unique opportunity to explore the Experimenta Science Center in Heilbronn.
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Fig. 2 Gathering of the German medical informatics community for their traditional “Forschung lohnt sich!” (Research Pays Off!) photo moment.

Publication History

Article published online:
20 February 2024

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  • References

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  • 2 Ellsässer KH, Hönicke E. Data display and methodological problems of a system for early diagnosis. Report of the 6th spring meeting of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Medizinische Dokumentation, Information und Statistik (GMDS) in Heidelberg. Methods Inf Med 1979; 18 (03) 182-184
  • 3 IMIA/GMDS Working Conference on Health/Medical Informatics Education. Proceedings. Heidelberg/Heilbronn, Germany. Methods Inf Med 1994; 33 (03) 246-331
  • 4 Winter A, Haux R, Bickeböller H. “Tradition is not preserving the ashes, it is passing on the fire”. On strengthening ties with GMDS. Methods Inf Med 2013; 52 (01) 1-2
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