Snomed Clinical Terms is now available free of charge from the National Library of Medicine's Unified Medical Language System.
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson made the announcement at a healthcare information technology summit in Washington, D.C., Thursday.
In February 2003, Modern Physician broke the story of an impending licensing deal between the NLM and Snomed International, an arm of the Northfield, Ill.-based College of American Pathologists.
Last July, Thompson officially announced the five-year, $32.4 million contract with funding involvement through several departments of HHS as well as the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Under the agreement, IT users will be able to use the Snomed code set -- currently available only in English, although a Spanish version will be available soon -- without paying licensing fees, eliminating its cost as a barrier to adoption.
"The realization of a fully operational electronic health record has been catapulted forward recently with the President doubling funding to $100 million for healthcare information technology, legislation introduced in Congress, the creation of a senior-level health-technology coordinator at the Department of Health and Human Services and now the availability of Snomed CT free of charge through the UMLS," said Mary Kass, M.D., president of the College of American Pathologists, in a news release.
"These critical milestones have the potential of greatly reducing medical errors associated with traditional paper records and vastly improving patient safety and quality of care, which are goals the college has been committed to since its inception," Kass said.
"The secretary has worked hard to bring together more than 100 business, government and community leaders involved in health information technology to discuss ways to speed progress in this area and fulfill President Bush's 10-year goal for EHRs," said Franklin Elevitch, M.D, chairman of the Snomed International Authority.
"Now that the NLM has incorporated Snomed CT into the UMLS, the (College of American Pathologists) will continue to work closely with the government and the private sector to help make the goal of safer, higher-quality health care a reality for all Americans."