Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wisdom from the Chinese Fable of Spear and Shield

There were a lot of exciting activities occurring in healthcare interoperability space this year.

Within HL7, the most phenomenal activity must be the HL7 "fresh look task force" and Grahame's RFH (Resource for Health), later it was renamed by HL7 as FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource, pronounced as 'fire').

In the mean time, there were extensive debate w.r.t modeling the information using HL7 v3 RIM ActRelationship v.s SNOMED CT post-coordination, the intended use v.s actual use of HL7v3 CDA.

Outside HL7, there was the recent CIMI (Clinical Information Modelling Initiative) debate, some intended it to be "HL7 buster". Out of the various discussions and opinions expressed, I found the view of Keith Boone (see Keith's view on CIMI ) correctly reflects the complementary roles played by various and different standards or initiatives in healthcare interoperability arena.

I can't agree more with Keith, I would like to borrow the following Chinese Fable of 'Spear and Shield' to illustrate the point, the moral of the story is to advise people not to overstate the strength and applicability of one particular thing, be practical and realistic, and take balanced view.

English translation of 'Spear and Shield'

In the State of Chu (one of the 7 kingdoms in China during warring state period around 200 BC), there was a man who was selling both shields and spears. He would proudly exclaim: "My shield is so strong it can not be pierced." At the same time, he would continue to boast the strength of his spear: "My spear is so strong that it can pierce through anything."

One day someone asked him: "What happens if I try to pierce your shield with your spear?"

Confused and bewildered, he fell silent.

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