This post was guest authored by lawyers from MWE China Law Offices, McDermott Will & Emery’s strategic alliance in Shanghai. 

Data compliance in China’s health care industry is multifaceted and highly sensitive, and applies to numerous types of data generated across the continuum of care. Multiple pieces of legislation prescribe complex regulatory requirements governing different types of data, and various supervisory authorities frequently conduct inspections and investigations, paying special attention to health care multinationals with operations in China.

This article explores four key questions on the regulatory requirements for health care data in China, along with key compliance steps for multinationals throughout the entire life cycle of health care data, including collection, storage, transfer and use.

1. What types of health care data are regulated in China? What are the key compliance points related to these types of health care data?

Data compliance rules apply to various sources and types of health care data, including medical record information, medical insurance information, health care logs, human genetic resources, medical experiments and scientific data. The table below lists the various types of health care data governed by China’s laws and regulations related to health care and personal information, as well as the key regulatory compliance focus for each category.

Category Definition Key Regulatory Compliance Focus

Health Care Big Data

The Administrative Measures on Standards, Security and Services of National Healthcare Big Data (for Trial Implementation)

Data relating to health care generated in the course of disease prevention and control as well as health management

Note: the Measures do not clarify what data qualifies as health care “big” data.

Localisation and storage

Transfer: Cross-border data transfer is subject to security assessment.

Human Genetic Resources

The Interim Administrative Measures for the Management of Human Genetic Resources

Genetic materials and related information, including organs, tissues, cells, blood, preparations, recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) constructs containing human genome, genes and their products.

Collection: Complex approval procedures are required, and collection by foreign entities or individuals is restricted.

Localisation and storage

Transfer: Approval from administrative bodies is required before cross-border transfer.

Pharmaceutical Data

The Pharmaceutical Data Management Specification (Draft for Comments)

Data from all activities in a product’s life cycle, such as R&D, production, circulation, post-marketing monitoring and evaluation. Laws and regulations on personal information protection, health care big data protection and human genetic information protection, etc., may apply under certain circumstances.

Medical Device Data

The Guidelines for Technical Review of Network Security Registration for Medical Devices

Health care data and device data. Laws and regulations on personal information protection, health care big data protection and human genetic information protection, etc., may apply under certain circumstances.

Medical Records

The Regulations for Medical Institutions on Medical Records Management

All texts, symbols, graphics, images and slides produced in medical activities by medical personnel, including outpatient (emergency) and hospitalisation medical records.

Medical records are filed as medical history.

Collection: Consent from data subject is required.

Transfer: Medical institutions should keep records strictly confidential except under specific circumstances.

Scientific Data

The Measures for the Management of Scientific Data

Primarily data produced from basic research, application research, pilot development and other endeavours in such areas as natural science and engineering technology science, and the original data and data derived via observation and monitoring, survey and investigation, and inspection and detection that is used for scientific research activities. Transfer: Data involving state secrets are strictly forbidden to be transferred to a third party.

2. What are the key compliance steps for health care data collection in China?

Collection of any health care data involving personal information should be based on the three principles of China’s Cybersecurity Law (legitimacy, justification and necessity) and requires the consent of the data subject. The rules, purposes, methods and ranges of such collection should also be disclosed to the data subject.

Collection of human genetic information by foreign entities or foreign individuals is strictly regulated, and such collection is subject to the approval of regulatory authorities.

Multinationals may wish to consider taking the following steps to be compliant with Chinese laws:


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As Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect, companies around the world are racing to implement compliance measures. In parallel with the GDPR’s development, China’s new data protection framework has emerged over the past year and is in the final stages of implementing the remaining details. With similar and often overlapping obligations, full compliance with the GDPR and China’s data protection framework presents a significant new challenge for companies with operations in China.

Does the GDPR Apply to Companies in China?

The GDPR applies to the processing of personal data of people who are in the European Union, even for a controller or processor in China, where the processing of the data is related to:

  • The offering of goods or services to the data subjects in the European Union, regardless of whether a payment is required; or
  • The monitoring of people’s behavior in the European Union.

As a result, even if a Chinese company does not have any formal establishments in the European Union, the GDPR will nonetheless apply if it is conducting either of these two types of activities.

What Are the Requirements for Companies in China Subject to the GDPR?

The GDPR primarily focuses on two categories of entities: “controllers” and “processors.” These two types are similar to concepts in the Chinese rules.  “Controllers” are entities that, alone or jointly with others, determine the purposes and means of the processing of personal data. “Processors” are entities that carry out the processing of personal data on behalf of the controllers.

Key requirements for most controllers under the GDPR:
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China’s new data protection framework clearly creates a requirement for local storage and conducting a security assessment before personal information or important data is shared with other jurisdictions, but it is currently much less clear what types of entities fall under this requirement.

Localization and Transfer Assessment Requirements Related to CII Operators

Under the People’s Republic of China Network Security Law, also known as the Cybersecurity Law, personal information and important data collected and generated in the operation of critical information infrastructure operators (CII operators) is required to be stored in China and, before providing that information abroad, a security assessment is required to be passed. This new requirement caused a significant amount of concern for entities that fall within the category of CII operators because of the need to potentially restructure their data systems, but there was also a general appearance of acceptance within the business community due to the relatively targeted scope of the definition of CII operators and acknowledgement that critical infrastructures require elevated protections.
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