SNOMED International is a global not-for-profit organization that administers and develops SNOMED CT, the world’s most comprehensive clinical terminology. It’s a membership organization, currently representing 39 member countries around the world. They strive to determine the best global standards for health terminology and to engage with the global health care community to improve SNOMED CT and patient safety.
While you may not be immediately familiar with SNOMED CT, there’s a good chance you’re using it in your organization. SNOMED CT enables consistent representation of clinical content in electronic health records. “If CHIMA members are working in a health care setting where they’re using Epic, Cerner, and other vendors, they are using SNOMED CT and probably don’t even know it,” SNOMED International CEO Don Sweete says. “That’s the best scenario—when it doesn’t even affect their workflow.” Rather, SNOMED CT runs behind the scenes, helping to make the clinician experience a seamless one. It’s the largest clinical terminology in the world right now and acts as a hub to harmonize what is happening from a terminology perspective.
“We are grateful that SNOMED International, with the support of Canada Health Infoway, will be there for CHIMA members—particularly professionals who are certified as terminology standards specialists with the Canadian College of Health Information Management,” adds Jeff Nesbitt, CEO and registrar of CHIMA and the College. “Collectively, our members will be able to access resources to support their understanding and implementation of SNOMED CT.”
“We are excited to support this new partnership between CHIMA and SNOMED International,” says President and CEO Michael Green of Canada Health Infoway. “Together we are working to enable better health for all Canadians.”
Canada Health Infoway has licensed SNOMED CT and makes it free for all Canadian implementers to use. As the national release centre for the country, Infoway has representation on SNOMED International’s general assembly, member forum, and various working groups.
Infoway provides education on standards and manages the Canadian edition of SNOMED CT, which allows for variations and nuances that are unique to Canada, such as immunization content.
Sweete uses the current coronavirus pandemic as an example to illustrate how SNOMED CT is making a difference.
“The biggest issue around the pandemic currently is that it’s hard to look at whether a certain area has it, or if an underlying group has symptoms,” Sweete says. “SNOMED CT is a machine-readable set of concepts that are effectively used by software developers and data analysts to do granular deep dives on data.” It ensures that clinicians and nurses have context on the patient—a full view of what their health picture looks like.
“Having properly encoded clinical vocabularies, like the Canadian edition of SNOMED CT, ensures that digital information shared in Canada and around the globe about COVID-19 is precise in meaning and supports scientists, clinicians, public health officials, and governments in identifying, tracking, and containing the virus,” adds Green.
Throughout this pandemic, most SNOMED International member countries have developed COVID-19 codes to look at patterns of diagnosis and where clusters of COVID-19 are breaking out. “All of this makes it very important to use clinical terminology,” explains Sweete. “It tends to harmonize the data. SNOMED International assigns a code to a diagnosis and allows information to flow freely between systems that use SNOMED CT.”
Canada was the first country to leverage the March 2020 Interim Release and to make the COVID-19 content available for use in Canada in both official languages.
The end goal for SNOMED’s virtual team is to improve patient care. “It’s exciting and drives people,” Sweete says, “so that the data is there for everybody to have the relevant information at their fingertips to make informed decisions.”
Sweete hopes that this partnership between CHIMA and SNOMED International will help people better understand who the organization is and what it offers. “We want to help improve the role of CHIMA members in their daily activities, which will help us improve SNOMED CT,” he says. “We provide education, tooling, and implementation services. If members need something, they can come to us and we can help.” “There is a lot of support being offered to CHIMA members who are interested in terminology standards,” Nesbitt notes. “Please leverage the opportunities that will come in the future from this new partnership.”
To learn more about SNOMED International and SNOMED CT, visit snomed.org.
To learn more about the Canadian edition of SNOMED CT, visit https://infocentral.infoway-inforoute.ca/en/.