The College of American Pathologists plans to relinquish control of its subsidiary, SNOMED International, developer of the Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine Clinical Terms, or SNOMED CT, a coding system initially developed by and for pathologists but now more widely used for a variety of clinical coding tasks in more than 30 countries, according to testimony at a federal panel Thursday.
Betsy Humphreys, deputy director of the federally funded National Library of Medicine, told members of the American Health Information Communitys newly formed personal healthcare work group that the college is planning to transfer ownership of SNOMED to an international standards development organization.
"That is work that I expect to take place in our lifetime, within the next two or three months or so," Humphreys said. "The National Library of Medicine will be paying the bill for joining this new organization just as it is paying the bill for using SNOMED CT within the U.S."
The international standards development organization, which Humphreys did not identify, will work with the Indianapolis-based Regenstrief Institute, developer of LOINC -- Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes, a laboratory code set it initiated in 1994 -- and "define cleaner areas of responsibility between the two organizations going forward," she said.
AHIC's personal-healthcare work group met for the first time Thursday and was formed late last year to advise the government on the use of IT and genetic testing and research, which could be used to create personalized patient treatments or preventive-care approaches.
In February 2003 -- in a story first reported in our sister publication Modern Physician -- the National Library of Medicine, an agency of the National Institutes of Health, in an effort to promote standardized coding and the wider use of healthcare IT, contracted with SNOMED International to license the code and make it available without charge to IT system developers and users here.
Andrew Wiesenthal, associate executive director of the Permanente Federation, the national organization of Permanente Medical Groups, who is a member of the IT/genetics work group that met Thursday, also served on the board of directors of SNOMED International.
"The real critical problem has been they dont have enough people to model all the terms that everybody needs," Wiesenthal said.
Humphreys agreed, saying, "I think you have assessed the problem correctly. I think the goal of the new organization is to expand the bandwidth of the people who are trained to do this and increase the number of folks in a number of countries who work with" it.
Officials at the College of American Pathologists and SNOMED International were unavailable for comment at deadline. The college, based in the Chicago suburb of Northfield, Ill., claims nearly 16,000 physician members worldwide.