Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) informatics

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Introduction and Background

In the last 5 years, there is a remarkable increase in activities related to the use of informatics in TCM, as evidenced by guidelines and standards on TCM and informatics published by the Chinese Government, increasing research on TCM data mining and other informatics topics, and the recent establishment of ISO TC249 for TCM with a work group (WG5) focusing on TCM informatics. The 2003–2010 Ministry of Health Guidelines for HIT Development in China had plan for the introduction of EHRS and regional HIS to be implemented throughout the country. The National Standards on Clinic Terminology of Traditional Chinese Medical Diagnosis and Treatment-Syndromes, GB/T 16751, which is similar but not exactly the same as ICD 9/10, was also published by the China State Bureau of Technical Supervision in 1997. HL7 China was established in 2000 and the HL7 V2.4 in Chinese was available in 2005; the HL7 group in China is moving rapidly to V3.0. China’s 12th FYP (five year plan) include policy to support the ambitious 2009 health care reform plan to improve information system in hospitals and promote the establishment of telemedicine. In late 2010, a trial version of EHR Architecture and Data Standard of China was also released.

TCM Diagnostics and Informatics

There is an increasing volume of literature and publications related to TCM informatics, particularly related to semantics, ontology and data mining. It is exciting to find quite a range of literature in TCM informatics, from standards, interoperability and terminology to personalized medicine. The objective of this posting is to to start with literature on the use of informatics in TCM diagnostics, hope readers can start adding other areas of TCM and build a meaningful page on TCM informatics on this wiki. Traditional Chinese medicine diagnostic methods include inspection, auscultation and olfaction, inquiry and palpation. Based on the review of recent (2007-2010) scientific literature and news articles related to the above diagnostic methods from Pubmed, the following information were identified. A total of seven articles matched one or more of the TCM diagnostic methods.

Distribution of subject matter - TCM Informatics – Diagnostics

TCM Diagnostics - Inspection, Olfaction, and Palpation Number of article - 2 Literature Source - Compute Methods Programs, Biomed 2007 Hong Kong PolyU 2010

TCM Diagnostics - Inspection , Facial Image Analysis Number of article - 1 Literature Source - International Journal of Functional Informatics and Personalized Medicine (IJFIPM) 2009

TCM Diagnostics - Inspection , Tongue Image Analysis Number of article - 1 Literature Source – IJFIPM 2009

TCM Diagnostics - Auscultation and Olfaction ,Auscultation Signal Analysis Number of article - 1 Literature Source – IJFIPM 2009

TCM Diagnostics - Palpation , Wrist Pulse Signal Analysis Number of article - 2 Literature Source – Comp. Ther. Med. 2006 ; J. Med. Syst. 2009

Findings and Discussions

Key research and development in informatics related to TCM diagnostics mainly include collection and analysis of tongue and facial images via Computer-Aided Disease Diagnosis System (CADDS), auscultation and olfaction signal analysis and pulse waves study. Of which, the more comprehensive tools, according to the literature, appeared to be presented by Hong Kong PolyU, which had developed and tested three systems of TCM diagnostics informatics tools with significant accuracy. The three novel diagnosis system PolyU developed and discussed in the literature were: Automated Tongue Image Acquisition and analysis system, Pulse waveform analysis system and Olfaction analysis system. (


The above findings suggested that informatics is being developed and used in TCM diagnosis and the results are encouraging. With further study and continuous development and standardization, TCM informatics can be an innovative platform to combine western EHR technology with traditional Eastern medicine.

References: 1. Zhou X, Peng Y, Liu B. Text mining for traditional Chinese medical knowledge discovery: a survey. Journal of Biomedical Informatics. 2010;43(4):650–660.

2. Shu JJ, Sun Y. Developing classification indices for Chinese pulse diagnosis. Complement Ther Med. 2007 Sep;15(3):190-8.

3. PubMed PMID: 17709064. 2: Chen Y, Zhang L, Zhang D, Zhang D. Computerized Wrist Pulse Signal Diagnosis Using Modified Auto-Regressive Models. J Med Syst. 2009 Sep 10.

4. Computational methods for Traditional Chinese Medicine: a survey Lukman S, He Y, Hui SC. Comput Methods Programs Biomed. 2007 Dec;88(3):283-94.

5. Comuter-aided disease diagnosis system in TCM based on facial image analysis by Xiaoqiang Li, Fufeng Li, Yiqin Wang, Peng Qian, Xiaoyan Zheng International Journal of Functional Informatics and Personalised Medicine (IJFIPM), Vol. 2, No. 3, 2009

6. A novel segmentation of tongue image by Wenshu Li, Shenning Hu, Hongting Li, Song Wang International Journal of Functional Informatics and Personalised Medicine (IJFIPM), Vol. 2, No. 3, 2009

7. Nonlinear analysis of auscultation signals in Traditional Chinese Medicine using Wavelet Packet Transform and Approximate Entropy by Jianjun Yan, Yong Shen, Yiqin Wang, Fufeng Li, Chunming Xia, Rui Guo, Chunfeng Chen, Zhongyan Gu, Xiaojing Shen International Journal of Functional Informatics and Personalised Medicine (IJFIPM), Vol. 2, No. 3, 2009

Submitted by Vivien Choi