Standardization needed for use of big data in health care
By Chen Xiaoshu

Big data analytics can be a big aid to health care. However, meaningful information requires proper management and analysis of the data. So why is standardization badly needed to effectively use the vast sea of data? 

Zhang Lin breathed a sigh of relief when he was told he didn't need a heart operation. 

He's 64 and he had a heart attack six years ago. 

Zhang saw doctors at several hospitals and was given different medical advice.

But his heart condition has been gradually brought under control. 

Doctors at the Beijing Tiantan Hospital used big data to analyze and determine life-saving treatment for him. 

They used Tianqi, China's first database of cardiovascular diseases, which collects data from across the country. 

"If we use the instructions and refer to the medical evidence from this platform, the patient is very likely to get the best treatment plan, because there are millions of relevant data," said Wang Yongjun, Director of Beijing Tiantan Hospital Capital Medical University. 

Wang says creating the Tianqi cardiovascular disease database has not been easy. 

For example, the accuracy of the data was not always certain due to the lack of standards. 

In mid-October, China's Health Commission issued instructions on standardizing healthcare information. 

"To improve the use of healthcare big data, we need a standard. Otherwise, the data may just be preserved by individuals, medical institutions, local governments or other organizations in the form of data islands. If there is no interconnection between these data, new techniques such as AI or blockchain cannot use or analyze the data," said Zhi Zhenfeng, a research fellow at the Institute of Law from Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.  

Standardization of healthcare data could potentially help to prevent epidemics, cure diseases or cut costs. 

But data security issues may hamper its development. 

Health data doesn't only refer to individual health conditions, it also includes the bio and genetic information of a nation. That why it's important to protect both cyber-security and data security while standardizing healthcare big data. 

"Now we have a cyber-security law which took effect in 2017. The Data Security Law and the Individual Information Protection Law are being drafted. There are many other older laws which protect the nation's bio-safety and individual privacy. This is a process that laws, standards and techniques integrate and develop together," Zhi noted.