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Blog: Supporting a growing and increasingly engaged community of Spanish speaking users

July 8, 2021

By: Suzy Roy

Customer Relations Lead, Americas & Collaborations Specialist

In this interview, Suzy Roy, SNOMED International's Customer Relations Lead, Americas, and Collaboration Specialist, discusses the resources available to Spanish-speaking SNOMED CT users and the organization’s most recent efforts to facilitate knowledge-sharing among those users. 

SNOMED International publishes a Spanish version of the SNOMED CT International Edition every April and October. Why?

SR: In 2007, SNOMED International (which was then called the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organization, or IHTSDO) acquired the rights for SNOMED CT from the U.S. College of American Pathologists (CAP) with the goal of making the development of a global clinical language for healthcare an international, collaborative effort. Those rights included the Spanish language version, which CAP had been producing since the mid-1990s. We continued to produce it because of that historical legacy, and our community of Spanish-speaking users continues to grow and flourish. 

How is the Spanish version of SNOMED CT different from a Spanish-language community extension?

SR: The (English-only) International Edition is published every July and January; the Spanish version of the clinical terminology is an exact translation of that International Edition. At the same time, SNOMED CT is designed to allow the International Edition to be enhanced by adding extensions to meet national or local requirements without compromising the main body of SNOMED CT. This is intended to meet the needs of different languages, specialties, countries, regions, vendors and healthcare institutions. 

Are there any themes, content areas or issues that are currently (or becoming) particularly important to Spanish-speaking users as relate to SNOMED CT? Is there much of a difference between Spanish-speaking users in Latin America and Europe in those issues?

SR: The Spanish Edition is purely a translation so there are no content variations at that level, but many Members do have regional needs. Over the past year, for example, Members from Uruguay and Argentina shared the pressing need for COVID-19 concepts – initially for the disease and more recently for the vaccines. But because we are not including brand-specific vaccine information in the International Edition, they won’t get that in the Spanish Edition. To bridge that delta, they focused on including that information in their community extensions. 

Why is the Spanish Edition published on a different schedule from the International Edition?

SR: It’s done that way so we have enough time to produce the translation. Once the International Edition is finalized, we need a couple of months to translate all the new concepts, descriptions and relationships. 

Who contributes to and completes the translation?

SR: A couple of our Members from Spain provide the translation, but we have an online community discussion area where questions related to topics such as the translation of particular concepts can be discussed with other Spanish-speakers. A number of participants from Uruguay, as well as from termMed IT, a company that provides terminology services to organizations aiming to implement and / or support regional implementations of SNOMED CT, support the translation effort. In the past, Members from Argentina have participated as well. 

Many languages have regional dialects that use different formal and informal terminologies. That’s true for English and for Spanish as well. How does the Spanish Edition deal with this regional variety?

SR: We try to use the most standardized, neutral terminology possible, but the translation is probably geared slightly more to the dialect of those working on the translation. We also allow Members to use those community extensions to better tailor the terminology to their linguistic needs. 

We provide the introductory course on SNOMED CT in Spanish as well as in English. Can you speak to how popular that course is with Spanish-speaking users and whether there are any other educational offerings in Spanish (or plans to do so)?

SR: Since its inception, 215 Spanish-speakers have completed the Curso de Fundamentos. It has been very popular since Sociedad Italiana de Beneficencia en Buenos Aires, commonly referred to as Hospital Italiano, announced plans to deliver SNOMED CT education in Spanish within select Latin American countries. 

What other resources (non-educational) and/or tools do we make available in Spanish?

SR: We are really trying to get some momentum going for our Spanish users! We just created a Spanish-speaking users community area on Confluence, which was created to facilitate communication, share lessons learned, foster connections between colleagues of different nationalities and enable participants to ask each other questions and provide answers. So far, Members from Spain, Uruguay and Argentina are participating, along with a number of non-Members in Mexico and Ecuador. The landing page is completely translated into Spanish and provides a number of links that can direct visitors to the appropriate resource depending on the information they are seeking. For example, if they are a Member, it will direct them to their National Release Center; if they are a non-Member, they may be seeking information on licensing SNOMED CT. This page also provides links to educational resources that have been translated, so it’s more like a toolkit. 

The conversations in this community area have already been very valuable. Someone provided feedback about an issue they spotted on the SNOMED CT browser in the Spanish editions. We had a great conversation with both Members and non-Members participating, and, in the end, the SNOMED International tech team fixed the problem. That’s what we’re hoping this discussion forum can be – a place where people can feel comfortable seeking and sharing information in Spanish. 

Many Spanish-speaking SNOMED CT users are highly engaged with both the product and with SNOMED International, which is reflected in the many Spanish-language events that various users host or participate in and in our regular webinars and our yearly Expos. Can you discuss that engagement and how that ultimately benefits the patients of the countries those users represent?

SR: We do have a number of highly engaged Spanish-speaking Member country users who participate in webinars and present at our yearly Expo. We also have a number of power users from non-Member countries such as Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico who act as champions for SNOMED CT in their countries. This engagement helps everyone by eliminating some of the isolation non-Member country users in particular might feel by ensuring they remain connected with a responsive and helpful community, and it enables them to take advantage of the lessons each has learned in their SNOMED CT implementation journey and best practices. 

Do you have any advice for any Spanish-speaking countries that might be considering becoming a Member but haven’t yet?

SR: Yes! Contact me ( if you have any questions. We know there is so much to learn about, including licensing and Member fees, where to start, how to include SNOMED CT in your e-health roadmap or even what an NRC is. We can just have a conversation – it doesn’t mean you have to join; it just means we’re starting to talk. It also means that whenever I have Spanish-language events, I can let you know and keep you in the loop of what’s going on in the community. 

Visit us for more information on becoming a SNOMED International Member.  Look for regular updates from SNOMED International on our products, services and many resources as we continue to expand and improve SNOMED CT and enable its use worldwide.  

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