A Quick Case Study from the Field: Tasting the Challenges of International Collaboration on Electronic Health Records

A conversation I had yesterday with a senior executive at a health management firm shed some light on the challenges of working internationally in the field.  Our conversation centered on China; three details stood out:

1)    American medical coding systems are completely foreign to many Chinese health officials; they employ a coding system that is, in some ways, influenced by traditional Chinese medical practices.

2)    Chinese records are sorted by numbers only, and not according to the alphabetical system (naturally, this flows from the fact that Chinese words are composed of ideograms and not letters; still it presents challenges to international collaboration in this area).

3)    Chinese patients are expected to bring to their doctors a file including their basic medical information/background.  If they do not bring the file with them, doctors tend to proceed with a reevaluation of the patient’s baseline health; the very idea of electronic records is quite remote from this paradigm.

The challenges of working internationally in any field are, of course, great.  Human services, with its sensitive records and involvement in intimate issues make addressing challenges such as those above all the more daunting.

Even so, future posts will attempt to explore promising pathways for such endeavors.

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