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The challenge

Helping health management systems ‘talk’ to each other for improved patient care

Many healthcare providers today use comprehensive management software to better manage, record and integrate their data and activities.

Because there is no 'one-size-fits-all' health management system, different health providers use different systems. For patients, this means their medical information is often stored across different systems, particularly when their care involves various health professionals.

As there are many ways to record health data (and no standardised clinical terminology), patients' information is not only stored in different systems, but also in different ways; what one doctor records in their system as a 'chest infection,' for example, could be recorded as 'upper-respiratory infection' in another. This incompatibility between different healthcare providers' systems and terminologies can make it difficult to provide patients with appropriate and timely treatment.

That's why SNOMED CT was developed: a comprehensive, multilingual clinical terminology that acts as a database within different health management systems, storing hundreds of thousands of medical concepts.

Through its comprehensive library of medical language and smart algorithms that decode, organise and match clinical data entry in and across different health management systems, SNOMED CT helps health management systems exchange health data (to 'talk' to one another) for improved patient care.

To keep up with the ever-evolving medical language, SNOMED CT-AU is updated monthly. Unfortunately, these updates are not automatically rolled out to health management systems and must be done manually. This is expensive and inefficient, often taking four to six months to come into effect, resulting in further complications between different systems.

Our response

Developing smart technology to eliminate manual and inefficient software updates

Joe thinks he has a common cold.

Joe goes to see Dr Jill who enters his diagnosis into… the system!

Actually, Joe has a chest infection. So Jill asks Joe to see Jack the pharmacist, who accesses the system and can give Joe his prescription. But GPs use many different Practice Management Systems and pharmacists also use many different Pharmacy Management Systems.

And of course, they all speak a different language don’t they.

Healthcare professionals can use SNOMED, an awesome, international clinical terminology standard that can sit within their systems to talk to one another. It’s like a database of common medical language.

But SNOMED doesn’t update automatically, and Jill and Jack have to wait for the system vendor to manually install new updates. Highly manual, complex and inefficient.

So, the Australian Digital Health Agency launched the National Clinical Terminology Service, NCTS, and with CSIRO built some clever, state-of-the-art technology to solve the problem.

The NCTS is a cloud-based software-as-a-service. It provides access to an authoritative source of content and national clinical terminologies. It has fast, accurate search algorithms and enables automated distribution of content, so it’s always up to date.

Woah, hang on a minute, says Joe. What does all that mean?

Well Joe, says Jill. Because there is an up-to-date, standardised coded language, your clinical information is accurately captured and understood by all other systems of healthcare professionals you may visit.

Hey! That’s hot! Says Joe.

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Our researchers at the Australian e-Health Research Centre have developed Ontoserver, a smart terminology server that helps provide different health management systems with automated access to the latest versions of SNOMED CT-AU and other standardised terminologies.

Ontoserver is a critical component of the Australian Digital Health Agency's National Clinical Terminology Service (NCTS), which comprises an online browser, mapping platform, National Syndication Server and the Terminology Server (Ontoserver).

The results

Enabling integrated healthcare and improved patient outcomes in Australia and overseas

With the help of the NCTS and Ontoserver, healthcare providers can more easily access updated versions of SNOMED CT-AU within their own management systems, as well as related tools and services for exchanging healthcare data such as AMT, LOINC, and FHIR.

This allows healthcare professionals to respond to their patients' needs appropriately and in a timely manner, as patient information can be stored and translated correctly in and across different health management systems.

Ontoserver is free to license and use for the Australian private and public health sectors, and is available for commercial license overseas.

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