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Quality Digest

FDA Compliance

HHS to Promote Electronic Health Records Standards

Published: Tuesday, June 26, 2007 - 22:00

(DHHS: Washington) -- Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt recently announced that the United States will participate in an international effort to encourage more rapid development and worldwide adoption of standard clinical terminology for electronic health records. The United States is one of nine charter members of the new International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation, which has acquired Systemized Nomenclature of Medicine Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT) from the College of American Pathologists. Other charter members are from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Membership is open to all countries.

“International implementation of SNOMED CT is good for everyone engaged in developing electronic health records, and it will open up new opportunities for international collaboration in research and public health surveillance,” Secretary Leavitt says. “This use of a standard terminology will enable the use of health information across borders, facilitate public health surveillance, and support evidence-based research.”

The new IHTSDO provides a solid basis for making standard terminology available in developing countries and for aligning SNOMED CT with key international public health standards, including those produced by the World Health Organization. It will also assume responsibility for the ongoing maintenance, development, quality assurance, and distribution of SNOMED CT. The CAP will continue to support Standards Development Organization operations under an initial three-year contract with the IHTSDO and to provide SNOMED-related products and services as a licensee of the terminology.

“Current and potential U.S. users of SNOMED CT will gain some immediate benefits under the new uniform international license terms that will now govern use of SNOMED CT worldwide,” HHS National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Robert Kolodner, M.D., says. “A single license will cover all types of use in both member and nonmember countries, with fees applying only to some types of distribution or use in nonmember countries.”

SNOMED CT is a designated U.S. standard in several interoperability specifications identified by the Health Information Technology Standards Panel, which, it is anticipated, will be recognized by the HHS Secretary at the end of 2007. SNOMED CT has been available free-of-charge to everyone in the United States since 2003, when HHS and other federal agencies reached agreement with the CAP on a groundbreaking nationwide license negotiated by the National Library of Medicine, a component of HHS’ National Institutes of Health. NLM, the U.S. member of the new organization, represented HHS in negotiations with representatives of charter member countries to establish the rights of IHTSDO members and set the new uniform international license terms.

The NLM will continue to distribute SNOMED CT through its unified medical language system, which incorporates, links, and distributes in a common format more than 100 biomedical and health vocabularies and classifications. NLM will also make SNOMED CT available in its native format as required by the IHTSDO.

For more information visit: www.nlm.nih.gov/snomed.

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