On Accelerating the Development of TCM Informationization in China through Cloud Computing
May 20, 2015 09:49 AM  

LI Xiaozhen, Zhan Dianqun

Jiangxi University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Nanchang, China, 330006

Abstract: Entering the 21st century, along with the acceleration of health informationization, China's informationization construction of TCM has made some achievements by the vigorous introduction of various advanced information technology. Of course, due to China's late start in TCM informationization, the uniqueness of the theories and information of TCM, the autonomy of development of TCM and other reasons, TCM informationization of China still has many deficiencies. Under the new situation, we can bring in cloud computing technology to accelerate the TCM informationization based on the thorough understanding of advanced technology and concept of cloud computing. While choosing the right plan and model of cloud computing according to our actual development, we must pay special attention to the security, technology and other issues of cloud computing.

Key words: traditional Chinese medicine; informationization; cloud computing.

1. The Situation of TCM Informationization  

The informationization consists of three stages, ie, information industrialization, and industry informationization, economic informationization and social informationization.  

Having completed the transformation from information industrialization and industry informationization to economic informationizationthe major developed industrialized countries in the world is proceeding into the social informatization from economic informationization. Newly industrialized countries are also working on the transition from information industrialization and industry informationization to economic informationization. However, the vast majority of developing countries still remain in the primary stage of informatization—information industrialization and industry informationization. [1] Informationization is the general trend of the development of the today’s world economy and society. And it’s the strategic moves for covering the whole modernization construction in our country to promote the informatization vigorously and accelerate the integration of industrialization and informationization, and the urgent need and inevitable choice to implement the scientific outlook on development, overall construction of well-off society, construction of socialist harmonious society and building of the innovation-oriented country.

After several decades of development and establishment, China health informationization has made many achievements. The different regions and departments across the country has established various systems covering from  health administration information system, public-health information system, health statistics and information reporting system based on network, health supervision information system, disease surveillance and control information system, emergency command system and maternal and child health information system. Health informationization plays an essential role in promoting medical and health system, improving the efficiency of medical service, increasing the capabilities of medical research and ability of dealing with public health events and protecting the individual health.  

TCM Information is the precious experience accumulated by the people of all ethnic groups in the thousands of years from life and medical practice on understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, which not only records many successful struggles with diseases and failures, but contains many innovative ideas and technologies closely related with the traditional Chinese culture.

With the deepening development of information technology as well as the developmental requirements of modernization and internationalization of TCM, the construction of TCM informationization, as an important component of health informationizationhas brooked no delay.

Only by speeding up the development of TCM informationization, can the healthy and sustainable development of the pharmaceutical industry be promoted, and the needs of today's world and social development be met.

Nowadays, after years of construction, through introducing all kinds of advanced information technologies, TCM informationization construction has made remarkable results, which can be showed as follows.

First, TCM information management departments in all levels are vigorously promoting administration information construction and are basically achieving office automation and sharing of management information. Second, information network of TCM health service has been gradually perfected, especially some TCM hospitals has constructed information platforms based on electronic medical records, offering great conveniences for medical treatment process. Third, the informationization degree of science and technology of TCM and education has been strengthened. Not only have some TCM basic information database, TCM digital libraries and museums and some sharing platforms have been set up initially but the TCM informationization educational system combining school education and continuing education has been formed gradually. Fourth, some progress has been made in the TCM information standardization system and the research work of technical specification and the academic exchanges of TCM informatization have been held frequently.

Of course, the step of TCM informatization still has to be accelerated continuously but there are still many problems and shortcomings in the construction of medical informationization. First, the management system and operation mechanism of TCM informationization and operation mechanism are not perfect enough, and independent TCM innovation system and TCM data sharing platform that meet with the requirements of TCM development and the era needs have not been fully established. Second, TCM standardization and technical specification is seriously insufficient, restricting the information sharing and system construction. Third, the regional development of TCM informationization is imbalanced, the investment is limited and the professionals of TCM informationization are lacked. Finally, the information technology products with independent intellectual property of TCM lack the full development and IT application level in the key business areas is not high, all of which restrict the innovation and development efficiency of TCM.

2. Characteristics of Cloud Computing and its Revelation to TCM

Cloud computing is a calculation pattern based on Internet and public participation, and its computing resources provided by services is dynamic, flexible and virtual. As a new model of organization, distribution and use of computing resource, it's conducive to allocating computing resources properly and improving utilization. Cloud computing mainly includes three services in different levels: IAAS (infrastructure as a service), PAAS (platform as a service), SAAS (software as a service). IAAS can be regarded as a packaging of hardware and operating system with making users free from worrying about location of computing center as the nature of separating calculation task and sending to computer infrastructure, renting calculation resources and storage as service capabilities and providing users a ghost used by one or more virtual server. PAAS can be regarded as a packaging of assembly and middle-ware including one or more server, operating systems and specific application programs. It mainly provides the operating of application programs and maintains required resources from various platforms so that users can deploy and develop software in their own needs by software tool and computer language offered by cloud service providers without considering about the development and application environment of software. SAAS can be regarded as a packaging of application software, whose essence is software-renting service. It is a kind of pattern that provides software through the Internet. In which, Software manufacturers uniformly deploy application software on his own servers. In this way, consumers can buy their needed products with the help of the Internet according to their demands and pay them a certain amount of money. [4]

Cloud computing derives from fusing traditional computer and Internet technologies such as net -calculation, distributed-calculationparalleled-calculation, Internet-storage, virtual, and load balancing. [5] It’s characterized by storing statistics uniformly, dividing virtual resources dynamically for meeting renters’ needs, self-servicing in needs, convenient access to Internet, speedy service, high usability and expandability, service-accounting and application of standard specification.

In the construction of TCM informationization of China, we must give full play to dominant status of medical institutions, make great use of advanced information network technology, try hard to fulfill the integration of information systems and information sharing in medical institutions at all levels, establish a regional platform coordinating medical public service and operating mechanism at the same time, actively create a preponderant pattern of medical service with the characteristics of TCM, make full use of TCM medical and health resources, make self-contribution to improve medical quality to lower down the medical cost and eliminate today’s ubiquitous problems declining availability of medical services, soaring medical expenses and disordering medical services. The key to medical and health informationization services is to focus on patients and fulfill the information’s sharing, flow and intelligent use, which set a great example for informationization construction of TCM. We can establish resources sharing services of TCM through advanced informationizationmethods. And fulfill cooperation and integration in all parts of medical and health services so as to put forward flexible flow and optimized configuration of doctors-patients resources from medical institutions of TCM at all levels. As a brand new platform, cloud computing will certainly play an important role in it. [6]

In the period that health informationization development has entirely entered the construction of data center and regional medical service platform, the informationization construction of TCM, as an important part of health informationization construction, can bring in advanced cloud computing technology boldly based on health informationization construction’s fruit and experience to accelerate the whole pace of health informationization.

In the realm of TCM informationization, we could get twice the result with half the effort if we introduce the interrelated cloud-computing technology into the informationization work whose main contents are electronic medical record, basic information database of TCM, information management system of TCM hospital, medical and care service information network of TCM, intellect auxiliary diagnosis and treatment of TCM, technological service system of TCM. We can establish TCM data center and cloud service platform through cloud computing. We can integrate the information resources of TCM and provide external services in union with the use of data storage of the platform. Through lending the hardware and online software service of cloud computing, we can spare a large amount of maintenance cost of hardware and software, lessen interrelated departments’ dependence on advanced hardware and software so as to lower down the threshold of informationization construction of TCM and create favorable conditions for interrelated department without good economic strength to bring late-developing advantages into play. Computing analysis service of cloud computing can bring its ability of massive data analysis and deep exploration into play with function of finding their correlated regulations from massive data and finishing machining and making deep use of it, providing more comprehensive and accurate data for interrelated departments of TCM and better exploring the characteristics and preponderant resources of TCM so as to serve the medical treatment. [7] Cloud computing can provide convenient and flexible Internet visit with self-service according to needs and has lower requests to users’ terminal devices, thus providing conveniences for the share and use of electronic medical record and other information resources of TCM.

3. Proposals for Cloud-computing Solution of TCM Informatization

For the moment, the cloud deployment has several patterns including private cloud, public cloud, mixed cloud, etc. Every kind of cloud has its own peculiarity and scope of application, which allows us to select the suitable deployment pattern according to our own conditions and requirements. The writer deems that neither can we invest blindly and rush into mass action nor do we want to accomplish at one stroke in the building of all kinds of cloud-computing platform in TCM system, but do the research and demonstration in advance. We can choose some fields that are easy to achieve, combining the related majors and the experience of maturing cloud computing platform. We may take the tactics of piloting first, maturity promotion and gradual promotion. We may consult the mature practice and technology in some major companies; we can consult some major company’s mature practices and techniques uniting the experiences of health industry, and then make some explorations for the practice of specific cloud in TCM system in one general area. We can make a exploration to construct a regional TCM cloud platform based on the existing health information management platform.        

The concrete solutions are as follows:

Firstly, we have to unit the related TCM departments in a given area to construct TCM cloud-computing information service platform. This platform can remove and integrate the isomeric TCM information resources dispersing in each unit node by standardization system construction and virtualization technology from unified cloud computing standard database. We could take the method of distributed data storage and management to reduce the demand for a single node processing power, structuring the cloud data center.

Simultaneously, we can integrate the regional TCM departments’ computing resources, storage resources and digital resources on an unified platform by the unified calculation resource pool, storage pool and other infrastructures provided by cloud stack, and build the TCM resources upon the Internet, E-government network and local area network for the convenience of users in the information service platform unified by standard information service specification framework. At the present condition, in addition to the use of cloud service provided by the cloud service providers, TCM departments can adopt the experiences of resources beyond backup to build one or several offline independent data backup systems for unexpected needs.

Besides, we can construct the basic software platforms achieved by the regional TCM information resources sharing on the basis of information sharing service. This software platform provides a unified middle-ware service, message service, integrated service and other infrastructure services for the regional relevant units of TCM information resources sharing and realizes the unified management and the effective use of hardware resources, computing resources and virtual resources. The various units of TCM can improve the development and utilization efficiency of TCM information management system by putting hands together to develop a united application supporting platform and providing opening API.

Finally, build the cloud application service platform of TCM information resources sharing, provide business support directing towards all the users within regions and, continue to develop new and convenient application software system in practice, and basically complete the construction of service cloud of TCM information resources sharing. The related units of TCM can cooperate to exploit convenient database management system and provide various application interfaces. Thus, we can utilize computer, portable hand-held terminal and other convenient mediums to obtain services.

4. Notes for the Introduction of Cloud Computing in TCM Informatization

Although cloud computing has become the most popular field in the emerging industries, the concept of cloud computing has been deeply rooted in the hearts of people. However, there still exist many problems of one kind or another in this new thing: the maturity of technology and perfection of application need time to improve; When using it, we must pay attention to the problems such as security, technology, etc and we must suit our actual efforts to create a good environment for the cloud computing application.

4.1 In the Area of Safety

From the development of cloud computing, security issue can be regarded as the great obstacle for the development of Chinese cloud computing. Cloud-computing security includes user data security, user privacy protection, data transmission, data storage from different regions and its stability. If not solved, these safety problems will seriously affect the cloud-computing business acceptance by the users and in turn, affect the long-term development of the cloud-computing business. So when using cloud computing to promote the development TCM, we should pay special attention to its safety. In the area of data storage, we must make long-distance backup for TCM data resources and create multiple copies of the work. In the area of data transmission, we need to use encryption and digital signature technology to ensure safety. In the area of access to resources, we should restrict the behaviors of service providers and users by means of strict permission definition, data shaded watermark technology, perfect laws and regulations. In addition, we can protect the data security through the establishment of trust mechanism in cloud computing, dynamic limits on virtual machine resources access and fully homomorphic encryption technology.    

4.2 In the Technology Realm

Cloud-computing technology is still in the process of constant development and improvement. Even though some of multinational companies in the industry of IT like Google, IBM also exist many technical difficulties in the frequent use of cloud computing .In addition, the technology and standard of cloud computing services from many cloud-computing service providers are different, and the users tend to be puzzled in selection .When TCM departments use cloud computing, on the one hand, they should boldly adopt some mature cloud computing technologies; On the other hand, they should increase technology innovation in combination with the actual development of TCM.

4.3 In the Selection of Cloud-computing Mode and Scheme Implementation  

TCM information resource is related to the traditional Chinese culture but has its own uniqueness. Because TCM informatization in our country is in the stage of the vigorous introduction of advanced technology and speedy development, we have to choose a cloud computing model to suit the actual development of TCM. In the process of the introduction of cloud computing, on the one hand, we need to find out the influences of the core technology such as cloud virtualization technology, mass data processing technology and dynamic allocation technology on TCM informatization construction. On the other hand, based on absorbing research results and application experiences of cloud computing from home and abroad or other fields, combined with its own basic conditions and demands, we are supposed to adopt the progressive first-trying-then-promoting means to advance the implementation of cloud computing program.    

Nowadays ,cloud computing has become one of the most popular fields in the emerging technology industry changing people's production and life at a very fast speed. Seeing to the future, cloud computing will certainly change the face of the world deeply together with emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, Big Data. Cloud computing will extraordinary shine in the field of health and medicine. Reforms and informatization in the TCM field must be driven by cloud computing to steadily head toward the goals-everyone will have equal access to basic convenient facilities of medical and health service. In the process of TCM informatization, cloud computing has huge available spaces and potentials for TCM information-sharing platform construction, scientific research platform of TCM, and intelligent diagnosis system construction, etc. We must have a long-term vision to grasp the strategic layout of cloud computing and stably advance the application of cloud computing with pragmatic attitude to open a new page for our TCM informationization business.


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