“With the digitisation of healthcare, there is no way around codifying medical data,” says Sweete. “Consistent use of clinical terminology makes data portable and transferable, providing unambiguous communication between hospitals and GPs in relation to care records.”

“From a patient’s perspective, clinical terminology ensures that any measurements or dosages of medication, test results or allergy alerts have the same equivalency in both systems, therefore improving patient safety.”


A single clinical terminology


However, currently in the UK, not all healthcare professionals are using the same coding system, making analysis of data more difficult. Sweete says in order for clinical data to be exchanged accurately and consistently across all care settings, the NHS needs a single clinical terminology, something that has been mandated to occur in primary care by 2018.

“The NHS is a very large healthcare system. You need a single clinical terminology to allow for better care and improve how clinical data can be analysed and reported on. Because it involves change management and a new learning process, the NHS must work with the end users, as well as vendors, to ensure that their systems support clinical terminologies, to be able to provide the right data to clinicians in a timely manner.”

In the UK, not all healthcare professionals are using the same coding system, making analysis of data more difficult

With genomics, precision medicine and big data poised to impact healthcare over the next couple of years, sharing standardised data may speed up the patient care process and the discovery of treatments for rare and complex disorders.

“SNOMED CT (SCT) provides a standard way to encode and connect clinical information contained within patient charts, decision support tools and knowledge resources. With this standardised terminology in hand, a company undertaking new research could easily access data on the progress of patients from a clinical trial which has been done. It’s an efficient way to do research and focuses only on the details of specific clinical evidence that researchers are looking for.

“As the number of smaller terminologies around the globe shrink, clinical data is better served as they combine their efforts. When this happens, you achieve translation of a number of distinct languages into one common language which all healthcare professionals can understand.”

Learn more

SNOMED International: Leading healthcare terminology worldwide. Owned and governed by 30 Member countries, SNOMED International (formerly IHTSDO) is a not-for-profit organization charged with setting global standards for clinical health terminology, a critical element of safe and effective healthcare. Our core product, SNOMED CT, is owned, administered and developed by SNOMED International and establishes vocabulary that enables the clear exchange of health information across all health systems, services and products in the world.
Website: www.snomed.org