Classifications and terminology - Overview

Classification provides a method of distributing coded concepts in a sorted and meaningful manner. A good classification structure facilitates both immediate and longitudinal data management and retrieval across a number of different groups. Quality health research requires the use of a reliable and suitable classification system. Staff at the Family Medicine Research Centre (FMRC) are heavily involved in the development and application of medical and pharmaceutical classifications for the Australian health care sector, particularly primary care/general practice. is Chair of the Asia Pacific Committee on Classification of the World Organisation of Family Doctors (Wonca) while is a member. Both are members of the Wonca International Classification Committee.

International Classification of Primary Care, Version 2 (ICPC-2)

The International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC), developed by the ICPC Working Party, broke new ground in the world of classification when it was published in 1987 by WONCA, the World Organisation of National Colleges, Academies, and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians, now known more briefly as the World Organisation of Family Doctors (Wonca). For the first time health care providers could classify, using a single classification, three important elements of the health care encounter; reasons for encounter (RFE), diagnoses or problems, and process of care. Problem orientation of the medical record and linkage of encounters over time permits classification of the episode from the beginning with an RFE to its conclusion with a more defined problem, diagnosis, or disease.

In 2002 ICPC-2 was accepted into the Australian Family of Health and Related Classifications for use in general practice and in classifying patient self reported health data.

In 2003 WHO recognised ICPC-2 as a WHO related classification for the recording of data in primary care.

Click here to read more about ICPC-2.

Classification of Chronic Conditions using ICPC-2

The link below is to the supplementary data for the paper "Defining chronic conditions for primary care using ICPC-2". The file contains a table of ICPC-2 rubrics and ICPC-2 PLUS terms that have been classified as 'chronic' for research purposes. Any rubrics not included in the table have been regarded as 'non-chronic' for the purposes of this study. The data are arranged in rubric order. The data may be obtained in alternative formats from the authors. The chronic condition list may be used in datasets using ICPC-2 to determine the prevalence and management of chronic conditions in primary care.

prior to accessing the supplementary data, please read the following paper in Family Practice: Defining Chronic Conditions for Primary Care with ICPC-2.

Supplementary data (140KB PDF file)

ICPC-2 PLUS (the BEACH coding system)

ICPC-2 PLUS is a vocabulary of terms classified according to the International Classification of Primary Care Version 2 - ICPC-2. It includes the terms used by GPs to describe patient reasons for encounter and the problems managed in about 1.5 million encounter records.

ICPC-2 PLUS has been specifically designed by the FMRC for use in computerised clinical systems, recall systems, disease registers and secondary coding of clinical data.

It is currently available as:

  • electronic data files (a generic format suitable for inclusion in computerised systems)
  • demonstrator program (a Browser program used by interested parties to preview the classification)
  • in electronic health record (EHR) software applications/prescribing packages such as those produced by CSC Healthcare Group, MedTech, Genie Solutions and Intrahealth Limited

It is also currently implemented in a number of different data collection mechanisms across all Australian states.

Click here for more information about ICPC-2 PLUS. Contact , the Director at the FMRC, for all matters relating to ICPC-2 and ICPC-2 PLUS classification enquiries.

Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine – Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT)

SNOMED CT is a standardised healthcare terminology including comprehensive coverage of diseases, clinical findings, therapies, procedures and outcomes. It provides the core general terminology for the electronic health record (EHR) and contains more than 357,000 concepts with unique meanings and formal logic-based definitions organised into hierarchies.

Click here for more information about SNOMED CT.

Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) drug classification

nce 1982, the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) classification system has been maintained by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology in Oslo, Norway. The system provides a global standard for classifying medical substances at the generic level and serves as a tool for drug utilisation research. The WHO recommends the ATC system for international comparisons. In the WHO framework it is also used for reporting of adverse drug reactions. ATC codes are included both in international and national drug catalogues (including Australia) and represent a common language. Courses in the ATC/DDD methodology are arranged annually by the Oslo Centre, with participants from all over the world. Researchers, representatives from health authorities and the pharmaceutical industry attend these courses.

In 2004 ATC was accepted into the Australian Family of Health and Related Classifications for use in classifying drugs.

Click here for more information about ATC.

Coding Atlas of Pharmaceutical Substances (CAPS)

CAPS is a pharmaceutical classification system developed and used over the past 13 years by the Family Medicine Research Centre to code all drugs used in General Practice in Australia. It classifies pharmaceuticals at multiple levels, including brand name. It is also mapped to the ATC classification.

Click here for more information on CAPS. is the contact person for all matters relating to CAPS and pharmaceutical classification enquiries.

Old information - Pre 2001