Semantic interoperability: Issue of standardizing medical vocabularies
Semantic interoperability is the key to achieving global interoperability in healthcare information technology. The benefits are tremendous - the sharing of clinical data for multiple uses including patient care, research, reimbursement, audit and analyses, education, health surveillance, and many other uses. Patient safety, higher quality healthcare, more effective and efficient healthcare, increased outcomes, and potentially improved performance, higher quality of life and longer lifetimes are potential results. Decision support and the immediate linking of knowledge to the care process become easier. Semantic interoperability is a worthy goal. There are many barriers to achieving semantic interoperability. Key among these is the resolution of the many issues relating to the terminologies used in defining, describing and documenting health care. Each of these controlled terminologies has a reason for being and a following. The terminologies conflict and overlap; the granularity is not sufficiently rich for direct clinical use; there are gaps that prevent an exhaustive set; there are major variances in cost and accessibility; and no one appears eager or willing to make the ultimate decisions required to solve the problem. This chapter defines and describes the purpose and characteristics of the major terminologies in use in healthcare today. Terminology sets are compared in purpose, form and content. Finally, a proposed solution is presented based on a global master metadictionary of data elements with a rich set of attributes including names that may come from existing controlled terminologies, precise definitions to remove ambiguity in use, and complete value sets of possible values. The focus is on data elements because data elements are the basic unit of data interchange. © 2010, IGI Global.
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