For the last few days, I’ve been in China for the China Health Information Network Conference 2016. I’d like to thank HL7 China and Professor Li (Chair, HL7 China) for inviting me – I really enjoyed the trip.
Simon Gong from Orion Health introducing me for the HL7 China technical session.
I was really keen to make this trip, because China is a really important potential stakeholder for FHIR. Not only is it a really large market, by many reports, Chinese medical practice can sometimes be quite different to western medicine, and I’ve worried that if China sits out the development stage of FHIR, and only gets involved late in the process, it might be too late for valid input to be heard.
I enjoyed my time in China immensely. I found a community struggling with the same things that challenge everyone. In fact, every time someone said to me, “What’s different about China, is that X is a problem”, I’d think to myself, yes, X is something that everyone struggles with to some degree or other. Interoperability is all about the people, and it’s the same in China just like anywhere else. But I think that what distinguishes China is the scale of the problem – China is vast, the healthcare system operates at a huge scale, modernization is happening so quickly, the economic factors that make it hard for vendors to collaborate are stronger, and the government’s ability to influence things (for good or bad) is stronger, etc.
Like many other countries, China is trying to figure out what to do about FHIR. Getting involved early in the process has it’s own costs, but gives you more influence over the final outcome, but sitting the process out avoids the cost of change and preserves your existing investment. I hope that my presence, my presentations, and my comments in discussion with Professor Li and others helped the Chinese community figure this out.
On other hand, several implementers described systems – including production systems – built using FHIR APIs – population surveillance, and clinical data repositories – just as real as anything built elsewhere. Some of these implementers I had already met, or even people who’ve contributed to FHIR (e.g. translations) – it was great to meet them in person. But others were new to me.
After my formal presentations, the HL7 China Technical Steering Committee (which is chaired by old friend JD Li), invited me to talk with them about how to create an active FHIR community in China. They decided to plan a FHIR Connectathon for sometime in the period Oct – Nov, which we’re working on planning now. Also, by their request, I created a Chinese stream at chat.fhir.org. We also talked at length about translation plans, which is a significant issue in China. We didn’t make any solid plans in that regard, but the TSC will be working on that.
Hopefully we can build on the interest and commitment that already exists, and seed an active community that can catalyse wider uptake of FHIR in China.
Finally, I’d like to thank Sean Xie from Orion Health, who translated my presentations for me – Sean did a great job, and I really appreciated his excellent work.
Update: Chinese translation of this post from Linforest (thanks) (and with improved photos including Prof Li owning the floor while questioning me!).