Health plan provider Kaiser Permanente has donated its Convergent Medical Terminology database to the International Healthcare Terminology Standards Development Organization to allow doctors and patients to understand the terminology in electronic medical records.
The technology will be distributed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
CMT is a core part of KP's HealthConnect EMR platform, the world's largest EMR, according to the company, which has more than 8.6 million users that include physicians, nurses and pharmacists.
CMT will help professionals achieve meaningful use of EMRs by fostering interoperability of health data standards with the linked clinician- and patient-friendly terminology, according to KP.
"It is a very central part of interoperability and the capture of precise clinical information that is foundational to all of meaningful use," John Mattison, chief medical information officer and assistant medical director for KP, told eWEEK.
The goal of CMT is for health care professionals to be able to read all EMRs without having to manage complex and incompatible terminology that may be conflicting or redundant, he said. "Within a given use case, there is no reason to have lots of conflicting standards," Mattison explained.
"CMT is one of those deeply complex bodies of work that go unnoticed," said Phil Fasano, chief information officer for KP, at a press conference at HHS on Sept. 29. "The purpose of CMT is to make the care-giving experience as seamless as possible."
Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health IT, called CMT a "solution to a humanware problem, not just a software problem," with both clinicians and patients able to understand EMR terminology.
CMT has three key components: a body of medical terms linked to computer code, quality-assurance utilities and mapping between terminologies sets, according to Mattison.
The National Library of Medicine will work on the mapping of terminologies, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will also provide support.
"One of the key challenges to achieving a coherent health record for every U.S. consumer is the need for consistent data across all systems and institutions," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement.
"This donation of the Convergent Medical Terminology from Kaiser Permanente addresses that critical need by making it easier for health professionals and patients to create standardized data in electronic health records. It can help physicians provide better evidence-based care, while directly supporting the administration's investment in bringing information technology to health care," Sebelius added.
CMT will also allow health professionals to map terms in EMRs to internationally accepted classifications and vocabularies, such as SNOMED CT (Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine - Clinical Terms).
Physicians will be able to view clinical terminology within EMRs, while patients will view patient-friendly language, said Fasano.
"It provides the ability to display a term that's friendly to the physicians and consumer and normalize it in techy talk where it's aggregated into a comprehensive continuous health record," Mattison said. "They can have one complete record that uses the same base of medical terms and concepts represented in different ways for different users."
Doctors will be able to view medical terms such as "senile cataract" and "morbid obesity," but patients would just view "cataract" or "obesity" to avoid alarming them, Mattison explained.
Still, Mattison noted that these examples are the exception to the rule. He'd rather see doctors and patients viewing the same term in EMRs. "We would like to see a convergence onto a single set of terminology, but one that is linked to an existing terminology set," he said.
Editor's Note: This article has been corrected to clarify that Kaiser Permanente is not associated with the Kaiser Family Foundation.