European Commission publishes report on EHR interoperability

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The European Commission's ICT for Health unit has released a report from the SemanticHEALTH project that outlines a research and deployment roadmap for semantically interoperable EHRs in Europe.

"Interoperability is about continuous change management. It is a long-term endeavor requiring both permanent structures and the organization of processes for consensus-building and co-operation among all actors involved," said Ilias Iakovidis, deputy head of Unit ICT for Health, European Commission. "This SemanticHEALTH roadmap helps us to structure the necessary work for many years to come. It underlines that issues of technical standardization are no longer the most prominent ones in realizing the interoperability vision."

The report mentions specific technologies that can help drive semantic interoperability, including statistical text and web mining technologies, decision support tools, cross-language search engines and tools that help to encode free text into formal vocabularies and standardized terminologies, such as voice recognition.

"A policy of incremental steps and a focused, modest approach to terminology development in an open collaborative environment is the ultimate recommendation from the project's work," the authors wrote.

Also, further action should aim at the establishment of sustainable national bodies, such as national centers for multilingual multicultural adaptation of international classifications and terminologies, linked in respective European networks, the report suggested.

Short-term goals should include the authoring of archetypes, the development of ontology-driven multilingual tools and the binding of terminologies to archetypes and information models, which should be complemented in the medium term with the development of the tools such as archetype-based tools for binding information models with terminologies.

Another task is the creation of semantically sound and focused subsets of SNOMED CT and ICD-10 that have immediate relevance to the health improvement priorities of Member States, according to the report.