As Kaiser Permanente built its common, enterprisewide electronic health records system, it also developed its own common medical vocabulary, called the Convergent Medical Terminology, to standardize documentation of care. Now, Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser is donating the terminology, known as CMT, for free distribution to software developers and providers.

CMT includes more than 75,000 concepts. It is incorporated in the underlying architecture of Kaiser's health-IT systems to support data flow between health care providers.  It provides uniform concept definitions so that systems used for labs, vaccines, observations, and other medical data can communicate with each other in a common language, making data transferable between Kaiser-Permanente systems and among care teams.

CMT is actually two terminologies--one for clinicians and the other for patients and other laypeople. The clinical terminology ties together SNOMED CT and other clinical vocabularies such as LOINC for lab tests, and some Kaiser-developed additional terms. The result is a common terminology across the Kaiser enterprise that enables clinicians to see familiar clinical language on their monitors while others see a simpler, translated version, says CIO Phil Fasano.

Kaiser has donated CMT to the International Healthcare Terminology Standards Development Organization in Copenhagen, which owns SNOMED and will distribute CMT across the United States through the Department of Health and Human Services. CMT includes a set of tools to create and manage terminology and quality control processes, and includes mappings to classifications and standard vocabularies.

Widespread use of a common terminology such as CMT could aid compliance with meaningful use criteria, according to Kaiser. Using CMT will support a common set of medical concept descriptions so that one doctor's diagnosis can be reconciled with another's.

Use of CMT also would aid large-scale studying of health outcomes across many institutions, says Aneesh Chopra, U.S. chief technology officer.

--Joseph Goedert


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