FDA picks SNOMED as language standard for EHRs

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The FDA this week made a move that should help efforts to expand availability of electronic health records in this county over the coming decade by adopting the Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine (SNOMED) as the standard computerized medical vocabulary for the system. The code is to be used to electronically code important terms in prescription drug labeling. The hope is that healthcare professionals will be able to more easily share and access medical information, according to an FDA release.

"Today's action moves us closer to our goal of establishing electronic medical records for most Americans within 10 years. With the increasing use of electronic medical records and other computerized methods for managing healthcare data, the issues around electronic data standards and standardized terminologies will become increasingly important," said Andrew C. von Eschenbach, MD, acting commissioner of the FDA. "Once we have implemented a national e-health record, health professionals will have quick, reliable, and secure access to patient information that can be cross-referenced with critical treatment information, including the information in the Highlights section of drug labeling."

The FDA is specifically adopting the ‘Problem List’ Subset of SNOMED for use in this electronic labeling initiative for prescription drug products. SNOMED (Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine), developed by the College of American Pathologists (CAP), is one of the terminologies chosen by the U. S. government as part of the health information technology infrastructure for clinical language, the FDA said.

The Problem List is able to electronically code certain terms in the Highlights data elements of the new format for prescription drug information. This format will be required beginning June 30, 2006. The SNOMED system provides coding for clinical terminology so that it is computer readable across systems.

The new labeling format will be integrated into FDA's other e-Health efforts through a variety of ongoing initiatives. As prescription information is updated in this new format, it will be used to provide medication information for DailyMed – an inter-agency online health information clearinghouse, sponsored by the National Library of Medicine. For more information, visit: http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov