Hong Kong's population has been combining traditional Chinese medicine and western therapies for decades. Now a specialist group including researchers from the University of Sydney and the Chinese University of Hong Kong has joined forces to analyse the island's largely untapped healthcare records.
Evidence that we can find through using big data could help similar populations across the world
The researchers believe the island’s unique healthcare history could help the global community understand the combined application of western and ancient Chinese medicines.
Associate Professor Simon Poon and Dr Josiah Poon, both from the University of Sydney’s School of Information Technologies, together with Assistant Professor Alexander Lau from the Hong Kong Institute of Integrative Medicine, Chinese University of Hong Kong have commenced work at the newly established Analytic and Clinical Cooperative Laboratory for Integrative Medicine (ACCLAIM) co-based in Hong Kong and Sydney.
Dr Josiah Poon said: “Computing technologies are now embedded in the medical world with varying formats collecting large amount of data. And fast. This patient data provides IT experts, data scientists and clinicians with the opportunity to work closely together to decode and explore the clinical solutions embedded in the data trail.”
The ACCLAIM team will focus on data linkage and analytics. It also aims to establish an international academic exchange program that will provide training for clinicians and engineers with interest in information technology and the modernisation of traditional Chinese medicine practice.
Dr Guo-Zheng Li, Professor and Vice Director of National Data Center of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing said: “Our team is excited to be part of the joint lab of big data for integrative medicine established by University of Sydney and Chinese University of Hong Kong. Together we hope ACCLAIM can bring new technologies and practices for the development of integrative medicine. This work will support people's health all over the world.”
With a population of more than 7 million Hong Kong’s medical experience could provide scientists and researchers worldwide with unforeseen answers and evidence on the issues surrounding integrated medicine.
As an example ACCLAIM colleague Dr Alexander Lau cites stroke care and the use of TCM and western therapies: "Untapped data is everywhere, and each one of those data could hold information that solves a problem.
“In Hong Kong western medicine is still the official approach to stroke care. But anecdotally we know more and more people are clandestinely turning to TCM, especially acupuncture, to maximise stroke recovery. Nevertheless the clinical outcomes of a combined therapy of Chinese and western medicine (WM) remain unknown. With the use of data-mining techniques, the ACCLAIM team successfully set up a platform to analyse the complex relationship between TCM diagnoses, treatment approaches, interactions with medications, and the association with clinical outcomes.
“ACCLAIM discovered, though TCM has a higher readmission rate versus WM alone, CM patients appears to have a lower risk of death-after-discharge. The evolution of data science urges us to rethink how big data analysis may complement to the current evidenced based medicine research, and save more lives.”
Dr Josiah Poon is working with ACCLAIM collaborators at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine on understanding the cancer patients’ data.
“Evidence that we can find through using big data could help similar populations across the world. What we learn in Hong Kong for example could be reflected in major cities such as San Francisco, New York, Manchester, Vancouver or Sydney that are now home to large populations identifying as having Chinese heritage,” says Dr Josiah Poon.
ACCLAIM projects will include using text mining to extract data from clinical notes and monitor long term cancer survival; stroke patients; chemometrics development for quality control of herbal medicines in integrative medicine clinical trials.