Snomed RT and Read Codes to be combined into an international terminology of health

Northfield 01 May 1999 The vision of a unified international terminology supporting the integrated electronic medical record was advanced by the announcement of a historic collaboration between CAP or the College of American Pathologists and the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Health on behalf of the NHS or National Health Service Executive. The agreement calls for the cooperative development of a new work which combines Snomed RT, CAP's Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine, with Version 3 of the Read Codes, being the NHS thesaurus of health care terms. The contract was signed on April 14th 1999 and signals a major milestone for the international medical community.

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The vision of a unified international terminology supporting the integrated electronic medical record was advanced by the announcement of a historic collaboration between CAP or the College of American Pathologists and the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Health on behalf of the NHS or National Health Service Executive. The agreement calls for the cooperative development of a new work which combines Snomed RT, CAP's Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine, with Version 3 of the Read Codes, being the NHS thesaurus of health care terms. The contract was signed on April 14th 1999 and signals a major milestone for the international medical community.

The agreement will generate a new international approach for the computerizing of scientific terms which physicians, nurses, and other health professionals apply for the effective management of both patient records and medical communication, according to Kent Spackman, M.D., Ph.D., Snomed Scientific Director. This terminology supports a convergence of meaning that spans languages and national borders. CAP and the NHS both have current vocabularies that have been heralded as leaders in clinical terminology. The merging of the two works will reduce the duplication of effort and create the most comprehensive language of health. When brought to fruition, the new project will provide an essential building block for a common computerized medical language for use around the world.

The new initiative will continue to have broad-based clinical input, physician involvement and assistance. It will combine the strengths of the two existing works: namely Snomed RT's robust power in speciality medicine, including pathology, and the richness of Read Codes Version 3, also known as Clinical Terms V3, in primary care. Snomed RT and Clinical Terms V3 will continue to exist separately until the new work is well established. CAP and the NHS will work closely with physicians, system suppliers, government agencies, as well as end-users, in order to make a smooth transition from their current clinical vocabularies to the novel work, which will be available by the end of 2001.

The College recognizes the importance of terminology for the future of health care, including administrative simplification, outcomes research, and also telemedicine, as stated by CAP president Thomas P. Wood, M.D. CAP, as an advocate of high quality and cost-effective patient care, has made a strong commitment to ensure Snomed's continued acceptance for the encoding of the computerized patient record. Speaking in London, United Kingdom's Minister for Health, Lady Hayman claimed that to meet the engagement to providing electronic patient records for everyone in the country, clinicians need a common, agreed language for use in creating the records. Therefore, she believed that this agreement with another world leader in the field will further support the ambitious goal.

In 1990, the National Health Service Executive has established the National Health Service Center for Coding and Classification (NHS CCC) as a part of the Information Management Group to develop the clinical terms. In 1996, the Center became the UK's Joint World Health Organization Collaborating Center for International Classification of Diseases (ICD). It provides advice and support to the NHS on use of information to support patient care. In the next few years, NHS will invest approximately f3.2 billion in a national electronic patient file which will conduct each British citizen from the cradle to the grave. The initiative includes information exchange between hospitals and general practitioners, who will be connected to NHSnet. By the year 2002, one third of the hospitals has to be linked to the system.

Snomed RT consists of a comprehensive, structured concept-based reference terminology supporting clinical data capture, retrieval, analysis, as well as electronic messaging. It is utilized for electronic medical records, outcomes analysis, and clinical decision support in more than 25 countries and able to capture, in a consistent manner, all the complexities of medicine across the broad spectrum of health care speciality areas. The CAP as a medical society serves nearly 16.000 physician members and the laboratory community all over the world. The Anglo/American breakthrough will enhance European contribution to the development and optimization of medical standards. You can visit the Snomed home page for more details.


Leslie Versweyveld

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