Unlocking Clinical Data’s Full Potential: Exploring SNOMED CT Use Cases

Ever wondered how your healthcare provider turns your myriad symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments into coherent data that can inform your ongoing care? The key lies in an unsung hero of healthcare – the Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine–Clinical Terminology (SNOMED CT). This clinical terminology system allows clinicians to represent the information they capture in a standardized and scientifically validated way.

Yet, despite its potential, scientific evidence for SNOMED CT’s usage in the context of Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems remains sparse. A recent systematic literature review by Vuokko, Vakkuri, and Palojoki sought to shed light on this (Vuokko, R., Vakkuri, A., & Palojoki, S., 2023).

Understanding SNOMED CT

The integration of SNOMED CT into EHRs can enhance the efficacy of data usage and improve documentation quality. These improvements can support the continuity of care and enable higher care process quality. SNOMED CT has been widely studied, but previous research has highlighted a lack of scientific evidence reporting clinical use cases in EHR systems.

A Deep Dive into the Literature

In their systematic review, Vuokko, Vakkuri, and Palojoki explored literature evidence of SNOMED CT clinical use cases integrated into EHR systems or other clinical applications over the last five years. They sought to identify the primary clinical use purposes, use phases, and key clinical benefits documented in SNOMED CT use cases.

The researchers applied the Cochrane review protocol, modifying it step-by-step to suit their research problem. They first defined the search strategy, then determined the inclusion and exclusion criteria for assessing the search results, and finally evaluated and summarized the results.

What Did They Find?

The review encompassed 17 research articles illustrating SNOMED CT clinical use cases. The researchers found that the most common purpose of SNOMED CT was as a standard in EHRs, noted in 8 out of 17 articles. When it came to use phases, SNOMED CT’s most frequent category was “in development”, seen in 6 out of 17 articles.

Among the core benefits of applying SNOMED CT in a clinical context, the researchers identified improvements related to terminology use outcomes. These included general data quality and enabling a consistent way of indexing, storing, retrieving, and aggregating clinical data (8 out of 17 articles). Additional benefits included increased coding productivity and advancements in the quality and continuity of care.

What Does This Mean?

While previous research supports SNOMED CT use categories, this review shows that further systematic research on clinical use cases is needed to enhance the review results’ scalability. To make the most out of use case reports, the authors suggest placing more emphasis on describing contextual factors, like the electronic healthcare system. This approach, along with using previous frameworks, could enable comparability of results.

This study underscores SNOMED CT’s essential role in structuring clinical data. However, more research is needed to gather evidence on how SNOMED CT benefits clinical care and patient safety. As the healthcare industry increasingly relies on data to drive decision-making and patient outcomes, it’s crucial to understand the tools, like SNOMED CT, that underpin effective data use.

Reference: Vuokko, R., Vakkuri, A., & Palojoki, S. (2023). Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine–Clinical Terminology (SNOMED CT) Clinical Use Cases in the Context of Electronic Health Record Systems: Systematic Literature Review.

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