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CIO Unplugged 11/12/14

November 12, 2014 Ed Marx 4 Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.


Thanks to a recommendation by friend and peer Pamela Arora, I was invited by the Chinese government to speak about health information technology. Having visited 29 years ago for my honeymoon, I was eager to return. This time, I would not be smuggling in bibles, but freely sharing lessons learned from my healthcare technology experiences.


After a 14-hour plane ride, I landed in Beijing and was greeted by my gracious host, Michael Wang. Michael is an English-speaking administrator at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, the primary hospital for the city and party officials. We shared much in common and bonded over many meals, discussing our values and ideologies. Heck, we even did Starbucks together! We would later catch up with Pamela, who was also invited as a speaker.

You may be wondering how I survived eight days without Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube. The answer: barely.

I had shared in advance my Top 10 list of sites to visit and they gave me a personal tour guide. It was freaking unbelievable. Although not a fan of Asian cuisine, I promised I would eat and drink everything set before me. Gulp. I managed. Incidentally, sea cucumbers are not ocean vegetables!

We also bonded through the ritual of shared shots. In China, each toast is a three-shot minimum. I, well … lost count of the toasts. What happens in Beijing stays in Beijing.

As you would expect, we toured the magnificent Friendship Hospital. Our guide and senior host was hospital president XU Shuqang MD, PhD. Dr. Shuqang now serves as the Party’s undersecretary of health for emergency management. A very friendly man with a great sense of humor. We connected on several levels, as both China and USA share many of the same challenges in healthcare.

As a big believer in the power of technology to help transform healthcare, Shuqang was personally responsible for the content of this conference. Every hospital in China took part. The equivalent of the ONC sat in the first row. The 2014 Chinese EMR and Hospital Information Management Association Congress was underway. I still pinch myself. Was I really a featured speaker? Humbled.


They employed simultaneous translation, which helped my speech go very smoothly. Until slide 12. Michael had entered the Chinese translation for all of my English bullet points, but for some reason, for every slide after the 11th, the English bullets disappeared.

It gave me pause, but I collected myself and then went on from memory. Thankfully, I recognized the pictures along the way that told a story related to the content. All was good. Who would know?


What did they want to learn about? Meaningful Use, HIE, privacy and security, and HIMSS stages of EHR maturity. Because I couldn’t imagine not talking about it, I threw in a few nuggets on leadership as well. What good is all that other stuff if nobody can lead and execute?

They were ahead of us in some areas such as telehealth, but behind in other areas such as EHR adoption and HIE. We learned from one another and developed a lifelong friendship that transcends political ideology. We are in this to transform healthcare. Indeed, the world is flat.

As I headed home, I reflected. My new friends. The amazing sights and sounds. The beautiful people. I came away with renewed hope. Hope for the world.

What resonated with me most was one of the triple-shot toasts given by Dr. Shuqang. “Despite ideological differences,” he said, shot glassed raised, “our two super powers can collaborate and truly transform healthcare and make this world a better place for the citizens of every country.”

They will be in Texas visiting Pamela and Children’s Health. I aim to catch up on progress made since we first met. I also hope they’re ready for some Texas cuisine!

Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook and you can follow him via Twitter — user name marxists.

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Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. Ed and Pamela – Thank you for representing our country and focusing in on our shared goals in such a diplomatic and professional manner.

  2. Hi Ed, Great experience. Interesting to read your post about China here in China. I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the conference you presented. It sounds like a great event. Hope you will be back here another time.

  3. I think a number of us in the healthcare IT community would like to hear Ed and THR side of the story with the EMR controversy surrounding the Ebola response. He has been a prominent face of the healthcare CIO and the silence on this is concerning, if we are to learn and make ourselves better we need to share our failures as well as successes. It makes me wonder about a gag clause…

  4. Politics aside, what is most interesting to note is that regardless of where a human resides in the world – we all suffer from the same possible disease states and health catastrophes – but how these health events are managed and delivered defines the quality of that care. In the end, there is no technology to replace the touch and logic of the human element delivering healthcare; technologies and government intervention only enable it (at least that is what we hope anyway).

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