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Medical experts call for info sharing

By CAO CHEN in Shanghai | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-11-04 10:02
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Medical experts attending the WLA Hospital Leaders Forum on Tuesday called for a broader range of standardized information sharing in the healthcare field to promote services to patients and tackle issues faced by humanity.

The forum, part of the larger Fourth World Laureates Forum, was attended by hospital leaders, Nobel Prize laureates and scientists from across the world.

According to Quek Swee Chye, chairman of the Medical Board at National University of Singapore, one of the important platforms for sharing patient information within the health system in his country is electronic medical records.

"We are now working to align medical records from different electronic systems in different hospitals, so that patients are able to move from one hospital to another and yet have the records online," Quek said.

"It would have been ideal if we had only one medical record for each patient, instead of several systems, and we expect to have a national medical record system, which will benefit diagnosis and patient consultations," he added.

Seeing how digitization is picking up in the world, experts at the forum emphasized the need for the standardization of medical data sharing.

David Speakman, chief medical officer of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center in Australia, said he is currently working on creating a large standard warehouse that combines clinical information with tissue specimens, pathology and the molecular analysis data of patients.

Such a platform, he added, would allow information to be accessible to everyone and be a boon to cancer treatment efforts.

Promoting international communication and collaboration is also critical to data sharing, according to Huang Guoying, president of the Children's Hospital of Fudan University based in Shanghai.

The hospital has established collaboration with 25 international partners, including the National Children's Medical Center in the United States, along with 12 joint programs opening to pediatric communities in China and international conferences in multiple medical areas, according to Huang.

Gregg Semenza, winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, also stressed the importance of international collaboration. He regarded the elucidation of the genome sequence in the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic as a "tremendous accomplishment based on the global open sharing of data".

"This has been absolutely critical to the scientific success associated with the development of vaccines and treatments for the disease. The challenge that still remains is the dissemination of those therapeutics to the entire world population, a much more difficult task," Semenza said.

"Collaboration is essential …which is the only way that we will solve the two major challenges facing the world, which are pandemic disease and climate change," he added.

Semenza also stressed that scientists, physicians and hospital leaders have to play a major role in persuading governments to do the right thing.

Gauden Galea, WHO representative in China, noted the barriers to embrace the vision of an open society and open science.

"If we want to go forward on, say, contact tracing, using the digital tools available, then the issue of human rights comes up, along with the debate between personal rights and public benefits, as we innovate in science. The issue of safety and efficacy of each of our innovations comes up," he said.

"We understand that many of the barriers to sharing are actually not technological, but they are of a political nature," Galea added.

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