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Health sector gets ‘big data’ boost

Liu Zhihua
Updated: Aug 14,2018 8:56 AM     China Daily

China’s healthcare industry is leveling up the use of big data technology, and a newly established organization aims to improve big data application in the health and medical sectors.

The China Smart Healthcare Industry Alliance, a nonprofit organization of companies within the healthcare and IT industries under direction from several related bureaus of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, recently announced in Beijing that it had established a branch committee on the application of big data technology in the healthcare industry, aiming to promote the use of big data technology in the sector to improve healthcare services and people’s quality of life.

In recent years, China’s healthcare industry has attached great importance to the research and application of big data technology. The State Council issued a multi-department guideline in June 2016 to promote and regulate the use of big data in healthcare. The guideline called for cross-sector and cross-regional data resource sharing in the nation.

“Big data technology is a hot topic in the healthcare industry, but how to use big data technology to meet people’s different needs for healthcare services while ensuring data accuracy and safeguarding personal privacy at the same time is a problem facing us all,” said Wang Xinping, director of the newly established committee.

“The committee has gathered a group of scientific researchers, medical professionals and entrepreneurs to help improve the research and application of big data technology in the healthcare industry, through making policymaking suggestions and facilitating communication among related parties.”

The committee is to promote the idea of establishing a national e-identification health data center and using advanced technologies to meet data needs in the healthcare sector, such as in research comparing the outcomes of clinical practices, or developing the clinical decision advice system, as well as distant patient monitoring, analysis of clinical data, and clinical trial design.

It plans to establish a tracing system using data technology alongside the supply chain to ensure the authenticity and quality of agricultural produce and Chinese herbal medicines, and to promote health education programs tailored to individual and community needs, based on analysis backed by big data technology.

The committee also plans to strengthen international exchanges in health-related big data technology, especially within Belt and Road related regions.

However, Liu Qian, the founder of Pharmacube, a consultancy focusing on the healthcare sector, said although the committee and the organization behind it demonstrated the healthcare industry’s efforts to make use of big data technology, who is entitled to be the owner of healthcare data remains disputed in China, and detailed regulations are needed to better protect individual privacy.

In many foreign countries, data belong to patients, and could only be collected and used after the patient gives permission, he said.

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