China launches national association to speed up integration of AI with healthcare

According to the State Council of China, China set up a national association to promote the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) technology with medical care to improve services.

At its inauguration ceremony on 5 May, it was announced that the Chinese Intelligent Medicine Association will provide a platform for research, exchange and cooperation in intelligent medicine.

Mr Dong Jiahong, President of the new association, said that intelligent medicine involves the application of latest technologies, including the internet, big data and AI.

“Developing intelligent medicine is of great importance in achieving more balanced distribution of healthcare resources, improving quality of medical care, efficiency and lower cost,” he said

The President of Chinese Medical Doctor Association Mr Zhang Yanling will supervise the new Chinese Intelligent Medicine Association.

According to Mr Zhang, intelligent medicine will profoundly transform the medical care sector and may bring great benefits to both patients and doctors. He also added that 124 hospitals have practiced intelligent medicine in China.

While promoting the use of AI in medicine, the association will also assist the government in formulating standards and regulations for the development of intelligent medicine, which is still at its infancy, he said.

President of First Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University Mr Chen Xiaoming named the shortage of talent who excel in both medicine and information technology a key challenge in developing intelligent medicine in China. He urged universities to strengthen education in nurture such talents.

In China, there is an observable trend that the healthcare sector is adopting AI technologies. For instance, the ophthalmic center in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, opened the first AI clinic in China last year to diagnose cataracts with the help of an AI-assisted platform.

In a clinic at the center, images of patients’ eyes are uploaded to the platform, and a diagnosis can be given within minutes. Treatment plans are also offered for doctors’ reference. The hospital claimed that the accuracy of the AI diagnoses exceeds 90%.

Another example is the Watson for Oncology, a cognitive computing platform that can provide treatment options to commonly seen cancers. It has been used at 65 major hospitals in 39 cities in China. The system is expected to be used at more grassroots hospitals in China to help improve cancer diagnoses.

As reported earlier, the Chinese Government has been pushing for integration of Internet technologies with healthcare. A set of guidelines was released late last month to promote the development of Internet Plus Healthcare. The idea is to promote the use of telemedicine systems, allowing patients and doctors from underdeveloped areas to consult with the country’s best doctors, who are often based in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. The initiative aims to help alleviate the problem of inaccessible and expensive public health services.

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