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SNOMED CT ® is a standardised healthcare terminology including comprehensive coverage of diseases, clinical findings, therapies, procedures and outcomes. It provides the core general terminology for the electronic health record (EHR) and contains more than 357,000 concepts with unique meanings and formal logic-based definitions organised into hierarchies.

SNOMED was started in 1965 as SNOP (systematized nomenclature of pathology), and later extended into other medical fields. SNOMED CT (Systematized NOmenclature of MEdicine-Clinical Terms) was a joint development between the NHS in England and the College of American Pathologists (CAP) to develop an international clinical terminology and was formed in 1999 by the convergence of SNOMED RT and the United Kingdom's Clinical Terms Version 3 (formerly known as the Read Codes).

When implemented in software applications, SNOMED CT represents clinically-relevant information consistently, reliably and comprehensively as an integral part of producing electronic health records. SNOMED CT is considered to be the most comprehensive multilingual clinical healthcare terminology available in the world.

SNOMED CT is the agreed standard terminology for the NHS Care Records Service and has been mandated for use in all NHS CRS information systems for the recording of structured, coded clinical information.

The College of American Pathologists is a not-for-profit medical society serving nearly 16,000 physician members and the laboratory community throughout the world. It is the world's largest association composed exclusively of pathologists and is widely considered the leader in laboratory quality assurance.

The CAP is an advocate for high quality and cost-effective patient care. SNOMED International, a division of the College of American Pathologists, is committed to the excellence of patient care through the delivery of a dynamic and sustainable scientifically validated healthcare terminology and infrastructure that enables clinicians, researchers and patients to share health care knowledge worldwide, across clinical specialties and sites of care.

SNOMED CT cuts down the potential for differing interpretation of information and the possibility of errors resulting from traditional paper records.

If clinical information is to be transferred and exchanged electronically, a standard clinical terminology is a necessary component of clinical systems. There would be problems in exchange of information for clinical or managerial purposes if several vocabularies and terms for the same topic. SNOMED CT is, therefore, maintained and updated centrally. There will, however, be opportunities to submit requests for terms to be amended or introduced at a 'submission request' area on the NHS Terminology Service website.

The use of SNOMED CT means that doctors and other healthcare staff are going to have consistent and easily understood information about a patient's medical history, illnesses, treatments, and test results wherever and whenever it is needed. The terminology can be used for diagnosis, treatment, sharing of information and for research.


SNOMED CT: the benefits

  • Patients knowing that everyone in the healthcare system they meet will be using the same language to talk about their condition and treatment
  • A single and comprehensive system of terms, centrally maintained and updated for use in all healthcare organizations and in research
  • Greater consistency in communication of patients' clinical records
  • Simplified data entry and retrieval
  • Reliable analysis and research based on a common understanding of health terms and concepts stored in a coded form (rather than as free text)
  • Good links to recognized health classifications (International Classification of Disease and Related Health Problems) and surgical classifications (from the Office of Population, Censuses and Surveys) to assist research into disease and treatment.

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