7 Dec 2009 09:43

China plans people-oriented health information system - MoH official

Shanghai. December 7. INTERFAX-CHINA - China is entering an era of people-oriented health information infrastructure which can better facilitate health care access to all Chinese residents, according to a Ministry of Health (MoH) official at the China Health Information Technology Conference & International Forum 2009 held in Hangzhou on Dec. 5.

"China's health information infrastructure is gearing towards one which is tailored to the medical needs for every person from birth to childhood, adulthood and old age to hospice care," Rao Keqin, director of the Ministry of Health's (MoH) center for health statistics and information, said.

According to Rao, the development of China's health information infrastructure can be categorized into three stages. The first stage was characterized by the introduction of computers in medical institutions and from 2003 onwards, China entered the second stage by setting up information systems for various operational areas, including disease control and emergency disease incidence, women's and children's health, urban medical insurance and new rural cooperative medical insurance. In addition, hospital management and clinical information systems have also been set up in Chinese hospitals.

Currently, the main problem with these systems is they are not integrated and are run separately, Rao said.

"An integrated information database is key in setting up a people-oriented infrastructure and China hopes to link up all its existing health information systems," Rao added.

Presently, the MoH is in the process of setting comprehensive standards guiding the set up of electronic health and medical records. The MoH announced on Dec. 3 it aims to establish a comprehensive health record database for Chinese residents by 2020, given that electronic health records have been set up for only 5 percent and 30 percent of China's rural and urban population respectively to date.

According to Rao, Chinese authorities will soon set up health information platforms at the national, provincial and city or prefecture levels. Platforms at the national and provincial levels will manage the lower-level platforms which will ensure documentation of electronic health and medical records.

"The MoH plans to issue a 1,000-page set of standards to guide the set up of health information platforms at the city and prefecture levels before the end of this year, which represents an important step towards the establishment of a people-oriented health information system," Rao revealed.

- KZ