Kaiser Permanente donates Convergent Medical Terminology to IHTSDO

Sept. 30, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC., September 29, 2010 — Kaiser Permanente today donated its Convergent Medical Terminology (CMT) to the International Healthcare Terminology Standards Development Organisation (IHTSDO©) for U.S. distribution through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) so that all health care providers—large and small—can benefit from the translation-enabling technology. 

This donation makes the results of years of work at Kaiser Permanente available to help U.S. health professionals and hospitals achieve key meaningful use standards set forth by the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Kaiser Permanente is a pioneer in supporting the production of structured health data by creating and linking clinician- and patient-friendly terminology to the health data standards now required for U.S.-wide use. The Convergent Medical Terminology has been developed by clinicians and technologists over many years. It is in active use to document thousands of patient encounters every day. Kaiser Permanente’s Convergent Medical Terminology will now be available for use by a wide range of health IT developers and users to speed implementation of electronic health record systems. This will support efficient patient care, as well as the production and export of standardized data needed to support quality assessment, decision support, exchange of data for patients with multiple health care providers, and public health surveillance.

“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. “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.”

Kaiser Permanente’s donation, which is being provided at no charge, consists of terminology content they have already developed, a set of tools to help create and manage terminology, and processes to control the quality of terminology that is developed. CMT also includes mappings to classifications and standard vocabularies, such as the Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine – Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT©) already accepted by U.S. and international health policy makers. In addition to being of immediate value to electronic health record developers and users, these resources will assist the distributed enhancement of standard vocabularies, such as SNOMED CT, to better meet U.S. and international needs. Kaiser Permanente has agreed to work with the IHTSDO, the owner of SNOMED CT, and its U.S. Member, the National Library of Medicine, to help make an internationally distributed network of terminology development a reality.

“Better data is critical for better health. That is why physicians, nurses, and pharmacists worked together with technology specialists to develop CMT,” said Jack Cochran, MD, executive director of the Permanente Federation. “Modern medicine is very complex and information about a single patient can be reported in different ways by different doctors who are treating different conditions for the same patient. Utilizing a common terminology that translates complex medical concepts into language that is both clinician- and patient-friendly has helped us coordinate teams, improve the quality of care for our patients and enhance efficiency in our organization. We would like to share the tool we developed with the country.”

“CMT is designed to be seamless so clinicians see the familiar clinical language on their monitors while other users can see a simpler, translated version,” said Phil Fasano, chief information officer, Kaiser Permanente. “The development and implementation of this terminology system was a strategic investment as part of our commitment to improve health care, and we are pleased to share it with providers across the country so that they and their patients can benefit from it as well.”

CMT is used in the underlying architecture of Kaiser Permanente’s HIT systems to support data flow between health care providers. It provides mapping to standardize the use of terminology and ensure systems, some already in use in most U.S. medical offices, can talk to each other effectively. The utilization of CMT will support a common set of medical concept descriptions so that one doctor’s diagnosis can be reconciled with another’s. CMT includes the key taxonomies required for stage one of the Meaningful Use program such as problem list sets in SNOMED CT. Thus, it can help clinicians map to the standards set forth by the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services

“A primary focus of this administration is the transformation of the quality of health care while reducing costs,” said U.S Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra. “A core enabler for that transformation is the ability to study health outcomes across many institutions on a large scale with electronic health records and the best technology available. This contribution from Kaiser Permanente takes us several steps closer to realizing that goal and improving the quality of care for all our citizens.” 

CMT is a core component of Kaiser Permanente’s comprehensive electronic health record, KP HealthConnect®, helping physicians communicate with their patients more clearly. KP HealthConnect is the world’s largest private electronic health record, connecting more than 8.6 million people to their physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, personal information, and the latest medical knowledge.

CMT is also utilized by Kaiser Permanente’s personal health record, My Health Manager, on kp.org so that patients can get a better understanding of their medical care. My Health Manager provides patients with secure, timely access to their lab test results, medication information and refill capabilities, summaries of their health conditions, and other important health information at just the click of a mouse. The technology empowers patients to manage their health by allowing them to access health information and tools and securely e-mail their doctor.