When parents see their baby grow up and start to become high-maintenance and worldly, they often are only too glad to help their offspring move out of the house.
Not surprisingly, the College of American Pathologists -- seeing its Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine code, or SNOMED, pushing 40 and already taking up a second residence in the U.K. -- are happy to help SNOMED find a new home in Denmark as it looks to move into use in a half-dozen other countries.
On Jan. 4, Betsy Humphreys, deputy director of the National Library of Medicine, told members of a work group of the HHS-sponsored American Health Information Community that the college is planning to transfer ownership of SNOMED.The new owner will be the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organization, according to a college official. In 2002, Humphreys led an effort at the library to sign a licensing agreement with the college to make the code available at no cost to U.S. healthcare information technology developers.
Thomas Sodeman, president of 16,000-member pathologist group, said the planners of national healthcare IT projects in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden are interested in joining the U.K. in using SNOMED in their systems.
In 2002, the U.K. merged its "read codes" with SNOMED to create SNOMED Clinical Terms, or SNOMED CT, the pathologists' first international system. It was a move foreshadowed in 1997 by the college transferring the code development project out of the organization's publication department and creating SNOMED International, a separate subsidiary.
In November 2005, after about six months of in-house discussion, the college sent a number of national IT programs invitations to help set up a new, multinational organization to take over the work of SNOMED International.
"CAP is a member organization to address the needs of board-certified pathologists," Sodeman said. "Obviously, as countries turn to SNOMED-CT as the standard terminology they're going to use for their healthcare systems, the demands on the college were growing very intensely."
The SNOMED International budget last year was around $6.5 million. "That's only supporting a U.S. and a U.K. presence," Sodeman said.
Extending Snomed to all of the countries interested in using the code and the language translations and local modifications that might be requested requires "a much larger organization," he said. "So, we turned to the countries that are using SNOMED or contemplating using SNOMED in their systems and those discussions led to the idea there needs to be an international standards organization.
"Many of them, before they commit to SNOMED, before investing millions and millions of dollars, they want to make sure they have some ownership interest in that product, and the only way for that to happen was for an organization like this to come forward," Sodeman said.
"We hope that this will get done in the first quarter of 2007," he said. "It's pretty encouraging right now. You can imagine the complexities of countries getting their lawyers to agree to an incorporation in Denmark, and then write a contract with us that exchanges the intellectual property across to them and then a contract with CAP to support it."
Sodeman said SNOMED's "parents" at the college are not afraid of letting go. He expects the support contract between the college and the successor organization will run for at least five years. In addition, "These folks have to keep SNOMED going because their country's health information is going to be based on it. I think we're real comfortable."
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