This paper describes Kaiser Permanente’s (KP) enterprise-wide medical terminology solution, referred to as our Convergent Medical Terminology (CMT). Initially developed to serve the needs of a regional electronic health record, CMT has evolved into a core KP asset, serving as the common terminology across all applications. CMT serves as the definitive source of concept definitions for the organization, provides a consistent structure and access method to all codes used by the organization, and is KP's language of interoperability, with cross-mappings to regional ancillary systems and administrative billing codes.
The core of CMT is comprised of SNOMED CT, laboratory LOINC, and First DataBank drug terminology. These are integrated into a single poly-hierarchically structured knowledge base. Cross map sets provide bi-directional translations between CMT and ancillary applications and administrative billing codes. Context sets provide subsets of CMT for use in specific contexts.
Our experience with CMT has lead us to conclude that a successful terminology solution requires that: (1) usability considerations are an organizational priority; (2) “interface” terminology is differentiated from “reference” terminology; (3) it be easy for clinicians to find the concepts they need; (4) the immediate value of coded data be apparent to clinician user; (5) there be a well defined approach to terminology extensions.
Over the past several years, there has been substantial progress made in the domain coverage and standardization of medical terminology. KP has learned to exploit that terminology in ways that are clinician-acceptable and that provide powerful options for data analysis and reporting.