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SNOMED is good for health record, but why not also for Policy, Regulation and Evidence?

· SNOMED,EHRs,policy,regulation,evidence

The NHS has rightly said that having a standard terminology will make a real difference to the ability to analyse electronic health records and really get value out of their contents.

What is weird is that this enthusiasm for SNOMED coding of Electronic Health Records does not extend to NHS Health Policy Documents, Regulations, or Guideline documents.

Why are these not SNOMED coded -- this would:

  • Make it easier to compare different policy documents
  • Remove ambiguity from the documents (what cancer is being talked about, what is the definition of Diabetes, etc)
  • Make it easier to link indicators to the policy - how will we know whether the policy has been enacted, and how will we know if it has worked.  What are the intended benefits, and what are the metrics that will be used as evidence for those benefits?
  • Make it easier for groups within and beyond the NHS to show that what they are doing (or propose to do) delivers of the Policy.
  • Make it easier for commissioners to purchase in line with policy (or to knowingly deviate)

This seems to be an area where leading by example would work wonders - and would deliver immediate benefits.

The rich semantics of SNOMED CT is ideally suited to such documents -- if SNOMED CT will add value to individual health records, how much more value will it add to health service organisations under constant organisational change in providing care plans for their populations.

By Charlie McCay