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Making the most of big data in health to improve primary care in China

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Big data technologies are widely discussed for their potential to transform healthcare radically, improving the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of the care patients receive. But the joining up of healthcare and big data also presents challenges, including data standardisation and information security.

On 21 September 2019, the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) joined the School of Management of the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) to co-host a forum on the challenges and opportunities for big data in health, held at Hefei, Anhui Province.

In welcoming participants to the forum, the Executive Director of UNNC’s Nottingham China Health Institute, Professor Stephen Morgan, highlighted the presence of big data everywhere in our increasingly digital world. “More effective use of big data in healthcare is vital to enable us to deliver better health services to patients in China and around the world,” he said.

“But only a small fraction of all the data generated in hospitals and health clinics are analysed. We need to use data better to improve the delivery of primary care to patients and to develop better health policies.”

Professor Morgan also emphasised that the data already collected by the health system can be turned into evidence to inform how we develop new treatments, improved delivery of treatments, and reduce health care costs in the future.

Representing the British Consulate General in Shanghai, Mr Chris Wood spoke of the benefits for China and Britain to collaborate on developing big data applications in health, medical technologies and academic research related to health.

These were some of the opportunities, Mr Wood said, but similarly there were big challenges that confront both countries in using big data. These include safeguarding privacy of individual health data, overcoming information silos that impede integration and exchange of data, and even national security issues.

The forum also heard from three keynotes speakers, Professor Guozhang Xu (Director of the Ningbo Centre of Disease Control and Prevention), Professor Zhaoben Fang (former Dean of the School of Management at USTC) and Dr Mengchun Gong (Senior Vice President of Digital China Health and Executive Director of the National Rare Diseases Registry System of China).

Professor Guozhang Xu showcased why Ningbo is a leading centre in the development of sophisticated health data operations. The Ningbo Centre of Disease Control and Prevention joins up the 150 hospitals and health clinics in Ningbo into an integrated network. This network allows the analysis and development of health monitoring services that are unrivalled in China.

Professor Zhaoben Fang summarised world trends in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technologies that have potential to enhance the safety and efficiency of healthcare systems, patient and drug management, and more.

Dr Mengchun Gong spoke on the issues of standardisation of health data and protection of health data. Both issues risk undermining advances in big data applications in health care.

The keynote speeches were followed by a round table discussion moderated by UNNC Li Dak Sum Chair Professor in Health Economics Zhuo (Adam) Chen. Six panellists from across health, business and investment sectors involved in health care spoke on the challenges and opportunities in promoting innovation in the use of big data in health.

The big data in health forum was part of the 2019 World Manufacturing Convention, UK Country of Honour Programme that was held in Hefei, attracting thousands of exhibitors to the convention.


Posted on 24 September 2019