Greater use of tech urged in healthcare industry

A senior medical scientist called on Wednesday for improved integration of big data technology with the medical care sector in China to improve healthcare services at the grassroots level.

“My biggest dream is to see advanced technologies that China excels in, such as big data, internet and artificial intelligence technologies, being widely used in diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases,” said Jiang Lixin, vice-president of Fuwai Hospital, at a news conference on China’s scientific achievements held by the State Council Information Office.

“Tools developed with such technologies that aid diagnostic and treatment decision-making can quickly help improve the quality of diagnosis and treatment at the grassroots level, so patients in remote mountainous areas can enjoy the same medical services as those in places such as Beijing.”

Jiang said she has visited many clinics in rural areas, and finds gaps in education and skills there compared with doctors in big hospitals.

“The tools can help guide and improve their work, even if they have no idea of the exact reason,” she said. “This will help them greatly improve their diagnostic ability and treatment of diseases.”

A major task of the ongoing healthcare reform in China is to promote a more balanced distribution of medical resources between different regions and different types of medical institutions, with health authorities releasing more measures in recent years to encourage the development of community hospitals and clinics.

China will promote the application of AI technology in the healthcare sector to improve services for patients, especially at the grassroots level, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said.

In China, AI technology is being used in a number of areas, including remote care services, assisting diagnosis and treatment, and improving health management through wearable devices, according to the commission.

An example is Watson for Oncology, developed by US company IBM, which has been used in dozens of hospitals in China since it was introduced to the Chinese mainland in March.

The platform is designed to assist clinicians in developing treatment plans for breast, lung, colorectal, cervical, ovarian, gastric and prostate cancers, according to IBM.

Treatment options for lung cancer patients recommended by the platform are more than 96 percent consistent with those offered by experts at the Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University in Shandong province, said Zhang Xiaochun, an oncologist at the hospital.

Jiang, from Fuwai Hospital, said China’s experiences in integrating big data technology with medical care may be extended to some other countries to help them improve medical care services.

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