A method is described to use SNOMED CT’s history mechanism as a means to compute how the formal and linguistic intensions of its concepts change over versions. As a result of this, it is demonstrated that the intended principle of concept permanence is not always adhered to. It is shown that the evolution of formal intensions can be monitored fully automatically and that the proposed procedure includes a method to suggest missing subsumers in a concept’s transitive closure set by identifying mistakes that have been made in the past. Changes in linguistic intensions were found to be much more labor-intensive to identify. It is suggested that this could be improved if the history mechanism would come with more detailed motivations for change than the current and insufficiently used annotation to the effect that a fully specified name ‘fails to comply with the current editorial guidance’.
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