China details on big data in healthcare include digital trail

Big Data

China's push for big data gathering efforts from the healthcare and medical sectors could be a gold mine for companies and public health trackers with the promise of a standardized digital trail.

In a follow-up to an announcement earlier this month, the State Council provided some flesh to the bones of an outline to create an industrial scale of medical services by 2020 on a national platform "that fits national conditions."

China's federal and provincial regulatory structure in drug regulation, tenders for medicines, access to state-run hospital and clinic care and the extent of reimbursement are far from uniform now with more affluent areas of the country home to the best hospitals and services, including private operations, while rural access remains a challenge.

Drug and device firms to public health policymakers have long struggled to get a more accurate picture of disease incidence, drug purchase patterns and other services, making a uniform data gathering exercise in all of those areas in the country of more than 1 billion people a potential information bonanza.

It’s still unclear how far China would go to share data with vendors and companies. But the China State Council said the ability to close the gaps in the process and outcome of healthcare efforts would be a focus of the big data healthcare initiative--with initial progress expected soon.

"The move is set to achieve cross-sector and cross-regional data resource sharing in the country," the State Council said in a circular. "National and provincial population health information platforms will be built, and application platforms for national medicine bidding and purchasing will be interconnected by the end of 2017.

"In addition, based on current resources, 100 regional clinical medicine data demonstration centers will be built across the country."

The collection of individual data will be covered by a thus far undefined usage permission that at the same time fits in with "interconnected platforms regarding population health, promote sharing and opening-up of health and medical data resources, boost big data applications in health and medical industry management, clinical research and development, public health, new industries, and digital health and medical equipment."

This program also envisions digital medical identification and signatures.

China's grand plans for healthcare reform and modernization often come through collaboration with industry as is the case with genomics research that has seen firms such as WuXi NextCODE, BGI and Huawei pursue various efforts to provide commercial platforms.

- here's the State Council release

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