Health Information Technology in China
Instructor: Professor Brian Malec
California State University Northridge
Along with Economic Reform, a series of changes occurred in the early 1980s in the Chinese healthcare system. The government goal was enable every citizen in China access basic health care services and treatments, and consequently made great efforts to innovate the policy and regulation of China’s medical system. Health Information Technology was an important part in the medical reform plan, and began to develop in the mid-1990s with the financial management system because healthcare was provided by fee-for-service in hospitals. After five years the technology was applied to the clinical system. Beyond all doubt, China made huge progress in such a short period. However, China’s HIT still faces huge challenges and problems because of the weak software application and lack of professional technical assistance. The health application software in China fell behind other countries. And most of them only upgraded after several years and therefore lacked practicability. Moreover, even now China is chronically short of experts in the HIT area. Admittedly, the development of HIT application has only just started in China’s hospital. Therefore, HIT experts lack experience in managing the whole information system. In this paper, we discuss the importance of Health Information Technology in China, its adoption and the government policy. Furthermore, the future direction will be explored through the current IT situation as it exists in healthcare system. China is the most rapidly developing economy in the world. However, its healthcare system has fallen behind. Developing HIT is essential in creating an effective healthcare system.
Health Information Technology in China
The Chinese medical system faces a series of critical issues – unaffordable hospitalization costs, unbalanced regional development, medical safety and low insurance coverage rate. Medical dispute happen frequently due to institutional deficiencies. The number of “grave incidents” has grown sharply in recent years. Therefore, people place more trust on general hospitals in the main cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou which provide better medical equipment, technology and services than community hospital with basic health infrastructures. However, some of the people have difficulty in meeting the expensive health cost. Although the Chinese public hope to have better health services, higher security and lower cost, nowadays the Chinese medical system cannot satisfy them due to the inadequacies in the healthcare system. In their 2010 study, Chen, Chen, Guo, Li, Ren, Xue (2010) concluded that improving medical facilities in only major hospitals was not enough to fully address public health problems. Therefore the government started devoting more attention to upgrading primary healthcare services in both urban and rural area. The latest medical reform plan which will allocate 124 billion dollars was released by the government on April 6, 2009 (Chen, Chen, Guo, Li, Ren, Xue, 2010). Medical information systems are regarded as a critical component for improving the current situation of Chinese medical system. They also stated that regional medical information platform construction is considered a key component of e-health and regional collaborative medical service (RCMS), now playing an ever more important part in this reform (Chen, Chen, Guo, Li, Ren, Xue, 2010). Furthermore, according to Luo, Zhang and Li’s study: China’s hospital information systems over the past twenty years, have evolved from single-computer, single-user to departments and enterprise level management information systems; from silo accounting, drug dispensing and administration to clinical decision support systems and the electronic medical records; from applications within single hospitals to the regional EHR solutions (Luo, Zhang, Li, 2010)....
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