SNOMED CT - Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine - Clinical Terms

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.

When implemented in software applications, SNOMED CT represents clinically-relevant information consistently, reliably and comprehensively as an integral part of producing electronic health records. SNOMED CT is considered to be the most comprehensive multilingual clinical healthcare terminology available in the world.

A clinical terminology is a structured list of concepts and their associated descriptions for use in clinical practice. These describe the care and treatment of patients and cover areas like diseases, operations, treatments, drugs, and healthcare administration.

This allows the detailed recording of treatment, either of a single incident or in summary of the patient's full care record.

By using the terminology and the computer system the clinician can record patient information in a consistent manner. Clinical data can be communicated efficiently and unambiguously between healthcare workers to cover, for example, prescribing, referrals, hospital discharges and business processes.

Research organisations will be able to report on health trends based on the common terminology, giving improved comparability and reliability of data from different organisations.

SNOMED Standards Development Organisation

In April 2007 the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation (IHTSDO) acquired the intellectual property rights of SNOMED Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT) and its antecedents from the College of American Pathologists (CAP) for $7.8 million.

By acquiring the SNOMED CT standard, the IHTSDO, which was established by a group of nine founding nations (Australia, Canada, Denmark, Lithuania, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, the United States and the United Kingdom), the IHTSDO and its member countries, will help to ensure the continued maintenance and evolution of SNOMED CT as well as its availability on an international scale.

The IHTSDO assumed responsibility for the ongoing maintenance, development, quality assurance, and distribution of SNOMED CT.

SNOMED Terminology Solutions (CAP) has been commissioned to support IHTSDO operations under an initial 3-year contract and will separately continue to provide SNOMED-related products and services as a licensee of the terminology.

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Australia and SNOMED CT

The National eHealth Transition Authority (NEHTA) is the Australian member of the IHTSDO on behalf of the Australian and State governments. NEHTA is responsible for licensing and supply of SNOMED CT in Australia and for adapting SNOMED CT to meet Australian requirements.

The FMRC and SNOMED CT

FMRC is undertaking a work program to facilitate the use of SNOMED CT, in conjunction with ICPC-2, in Australian GP electronic health records and in secondary data coding systems. The program includes the following elements:

  • Mapping available Australian primary care terminologies including ICPC-2 PLUS to SNOMED to form an Australian GP subset. We propose to harmonise this subset with an emergency department sub-set to give a “true” primary medical care sub-set (this work is being funded by the National eHealth Transition Authority (NEHTA));
  • Develop a SNOMED primary care subset to ICPC-2 map;
  • Working with NEHTA to map the Australian Medicines Terminology (AMT) to the World Health Organisation Anatomical, Therapeutic, Chemical (ATC) classification.

The FMRC is also working at an international level with the Wonca International Classification Committee Terminology and EHR Structure Working Group, of which Dr Graeme Miller is Chair, and the IHTSDO Primary Care Special Interest Group to establish international standards for SNOMED use in primary care. Work elements include:

  • Planning the SNOMED to ICPC-2 mapping process;
  • Developing a SNOMED General/Family Practice sub-set as an international standard (involving Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, UK and US);
  • Planning rules for local subsets in different countries (these should be sub-sets of the international primary care sub-set).

It is expected that this work will progress significantly in 2010.