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At SNOMED International’s recent October Business Meetings held in London, the organization’s governance bodies enacted a decision to extend the core of SNOMED CT’s structured clinical terminology to deliver an open, standalone sub-ontology to support the scope of content within the International Patient Summary (IPS.)
The IPS is an electronic health record extract containing essential healthcare information for use in the unscheduled, cross-border care scenario, as well as for local, regional and other care scenarios. It is a minimal, non-exhaustive set of data elements defined by ISO/EN 17269 and delivered by HL7 in both CDA and FHIR using a curated set of SNOMED CT terms.
There is a groundswell of support across all health sectors to increase the portability and usability of patient information for the purpose of safe health care delivery. In 2019, SNOMED International and HL7 International announced the formalization of a license agreement in which a relevant ‘Free for Use’ Set of SNOMED CT coded concepts would be used within the HL7 IPS. Most recently, we watched as G7 leaders collaborated to release a communique on the dire need to progress a global health interoperability agenda. IBM offers a working definition of interoperability as “the timely and secure access, integration and use of electronic health data so that it can be used to optimize health outcomes for individuals and populations.” The G7 communique, which highlighted the importance of enabling digital healthcare systems worldwide to work together seamlessly as patients move between providers, facilities and even countries, is an impactful statement that rippled throughout the global health community. A charge taken up by the Global Digital Health Partnership, it is one SNOMED International is eager to support.
Embracing a collaborative approach, “SNOMED International has been pleased to continue to work with HL7 International and partners across Europe and beyond to define SNOMED CT content for use in the International Patient Summary,” offered SNOMED International Management Board Chair, Joanne Burns.
Continuing to act in the spirit of the IPS Free Set, SNOMED International has committed to create and release an openly available IPS sub-ontology in the first half of 2022 to enhance the existing cross border movement of information, and ultimately health system interoperability. Unlike SNOMED International’s Global Patient Set, a flat list of SNOMED CT codes and terms, an IPS sub-ontology will provide implementers with a product that can be used in healthcare solutions using the power of SNOMED CT through its query language and hierarchies for the specified scope. Use of the IPS sub-ontology will allow for more effective use of clinical data analytics and decision support, and for Artificial Intelligence applications.
Alex Elias, Chair of SNOMED International’s General Assembly, the organization’s Member governance body, has observed a significant increase in discussion regarding the IPS. “2021 has seen increased interest by governments and Health and Care organizations globally for implementing the IPS to enhance timely cross border health information flow and interoperability. This has been a primary driver in SNOMED International supporting this recent initiative to make the IPS sub-ontology openly available with SNOMED CT content.“
An organization with an extensive history and active program of collaboration, SNOMED International CEO, Don Sweete, has played a pivotal role in positioning the IPS sub-ontology as a ‘soon to be achieved’ reality. “As the G7 Health Ministers recently indicated, the importance of enabling digital healthcare systems worldwide to work together seamlessly so patients don’t suffer as they move between providers, facilities and even countries is a sentiment that has rippled throughout the global health community”, offered Sweete. He went on to state that, “continued work with fellow health standards development, national, clinical and technical entities, SNOMED International will dedicate resources to achieve the goal of digital health interoperability.” Sweete added, “equipping the IPS, already one of the best examples of international collaboration among standards bodies, with the full capability of SNOMED CT’s ontological design is a significant action that we can contribute to achieving health information access gains for patients.”
Over the coming months, SNOMED International is formalizing the steps and due diligence required to make the IPS sub-ontology available for broad release. Throughout this period, SNOMED International will continue to define the IPS sub-ontology, from content through to its release and maintenance approach for launch in the first half of 2022.
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