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Following healthcare reform, Chinese public hospitals embrace information technology

By Tian Shi (People's Daily Online)    14:51, October 14, 2016

Steve Garrington, InterSystems Vice President of International Business delivered a speech at the summit. (Photo provided to People's Daily Online)

Internet technology has spawned many emerging businesses in China, and nowpublic medical institutionsare taking theirturn. A number of public hospitals have been testing and promoting electronic medical record systemsin order to better serve patients.Many anticipate that, following healthcare reform, more and more public hospitals will move toward these“smart” medical services.

“We are probably the very first public hospital in China benefiting from the use of informationtechnology,”said Xiong Fang, deputy director of the network and information office of Xiangya Hospitalin Hunan province. At the 2016 InterSystems China Summit on Sept.22, Xiongdescribed how the 110-year-old hospital made use of big data and Internet technology to establish an electronic medical record sharing platform.

Xiangya Hospitalfirst established its computer-based medical record system in 2009, with the help of InterSystems, a leading technology system provider. Using the advanced system, the hospital is able to automatically collectnot only vital signs like blood pressure and pulse readings, but also data generated from the treatment process.

That data then forms the patient’s electronic medical record, which can be easily accessed by the consulting doctor. What’s more, the patient can consult with doctors from various departments without having to repeat any tests.

“The system has multiple benefits. It saves time and money. It also helps the hospital to manage the flow of patients more efficiently,” Xiong said. “Besides, it makes remote diagnosis and monitoring possible.”

Under China’s old healthcare system, there are just 1.4 physicians for every 1,000 people, compared to 2.4 in the United States, according to the World Health Organization. However, Chinese citizens are increasingly raising their expectations for accessibility and affordability when it comes to healthcare.With the release of the new healthcare reform plan in early April, China is at a turning point.

Steve Garrington,InterSystems Vice President of International Business, also believes that smart healthcare is a solution for China.

“As a large and developing country, China confronts the challenges of an aging population, increasing chronic diseases, surging medical costs and inadequate medical resources. In this case, smart healthcare …is particularly urgent,” he said in an interview with People’s Daily Online.

InterSystems first entered the Chinesemarket in 2004, and the market has grown especially rapidly over the past three or four years. Now,InterSystemsprovides their data-generating and sharing platform to 120 healthcare providers across the country. Garringtonnoted thatsmart medical care brings many advantages to China’s medical system, including a more balancedand efficient allocation of medical resources.

By the end of January 2012, over 30 percent of public hospitals had set up electronic medical record systems, according to a report released by China’s Ministry of Health.However, Xiangya Hospital has gone one step further.

Under the guidelines of healthcare reform, the hospital developed regional health networks covering 13 healthcare providers in Hunan province that integratedata from hospitals, clinics and medical centers. Both patients and physicians can access patients’historical health data, including cardiac test results and x-rays, which are stored in an online database.

“The database provides large samples for cross-regional and interdepartmental studies, as well as remote instruction for county hospitals and health centers. It strengthens both the primary care system and the hierarchical medical system. And that’s what China has been promoting,” said Xiong.

Information technology investment in China’s healthcare sector has been relatively weak, and the level of computerization is still lower than in many other countries. However, in April 2016, a new round of reform was launched. By 2020, three national databases will be established containing health information, health profiles and medical records– all in an electronic format.

The government will also continue to encourage the adoption of online healthcare products, and telemedicine is expected to thrive in the coming years. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Yuan Can, Bianji)

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