NHS Digital uses Australian terminology to boost clinical data-sharing

Deal for terminology server will map clinical codes to international standards

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NHS Digital is adapting an Australian system that maps clinical and administrative codes to international standards, making it easier for providers and suppliers to share data and software.

The English health service’s IT and data organisation has signed a deal with Australia’s national science agency CSIRO to use the latter’s Ontoserver system, the country’s national clinical-terminology platform. The deal, which will be used by NHS Wales and is open to health and care organisations across the UK, also involves US IT services company DXC Technology.

As well as helping different software systems exchange data, the NHS Digital Terminology Server system will allow researchers and planners to match codes to international standards including the Systematised Nomenclature of Medicine’s Clinical Terminology (Snomed CT). Such matching copes with common variations in clinical terminology, such as uses of ‘chest infection’ and ‘upper-respiratory infection’.

“A shared health language is fundamental to innovation in healthcare around the world,” said Dr David Hansen, chief executive of CSIRO’s Australian e-Health Research Centre. “Australian companies already using Ontoserver will find another market providing their local terminology using familiar software, while improvements to the software through this partnership will also be available for use in Australia.”

“Recording data once and then reconciling, comparing and sharing the data safely has been a longstanding challenge across the NHS,” said Nicholas Oughtibridge, principal data architect at NHS Digital. “Ontoserver has the potential to transform the way in which data is captured, shared and analysed across health and care.”

NHS Wales will provide the terminology server through its national data resource programme as a component of its digital health and care record architecture. It will use it to implement consistent use of Snomed CT across the Welsh health service, and hopes this will improve analysis of health data, clinical safety when data is shared and software innovation.

NHS Digital has also announced new national standards for recording social-care information, to allow greater integration across health and social care. The five new standards, produced by the Professional Record Standards Body, cover personal details, health and care information shared in care homes, data shared by local authorities, urgent information required if someone is moved from a care home to hospital, and data on post-hospital referrals for care and support.

Sam Trendall

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