LOINC-SNOMED Collaboration Called ‘Major Breakthrough’

Nov. 1, 2022
Agreement lays foundation for development of LOINC Extension that will create both SNOMED CT and LOINC codes for all concepts that are shared between the terminologies

A new collaboration agreement paves the way for coordinated use of SNOMED CT and LOINC by both SNOMED International and Regenstrief, with each retaining editorial control of its respective standard.

LOINC was created in 1994 at the Indianapolis-based Regenstrief Institute in an effort to facilitate interoperability in healthcare. Today, the LOINC coding system contains almost 100,000 terms for everything from a serum alpha 1 antitrypsin level to a zygomatic arch x-ray report. For each concept, LOINC includes many other rich details, such as synonyms, units of measure and carefully crafted descriptions. Maintained at Regenstrief Institute, the system is free to users.

Owned and governed by 43 global members, the nonprofit SNOMED International determines standards for a codified language that represents groups of clinical terms.

In addition to promoting the adoption of practices to facilitate use and interoperability of the terminology standards produced by both organizations, the new agreement targets reduction of current and potential duplication. The goal is to standardize terminology and enhance clinical system interoperability while providing support for providers and users who implement different combinations of both standards.

The new agreement lays the foundation for development of a LOINC extension that aligns with the SNOMED CT model, enabling SNOMED International and Regenstrief to distribute LOINC and SNOMED CT content together to their respective users. The extension will create both SNOMED CT and LOINC codes for all concepts that are shared between the terminologies, making it easy for implementers to have a unified approach to implementing both standards and to meet clinical and regulatory requirements globally.

The 2022 agreement extends a relationship, inaugurated in 2013, which linked the rich clinical semantics of SNOMED to LOINC concepts, enabling the identification, exchange and collection of data across health systems. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and further emphasized the importance of coordinated standards to support interoperability, the organizations said.

“Opportunities to support robust interoperable health information exchange, nationally and globally, are vital to providing the best quality healthcare,” said Marjorie Rallins, D.P.M., M.S., executive director of LOINC Health Data Standards, in a statement. “The strategic and diplomatic value in Regenstrief and SNOMED working together should not be underestimated.”

In a statement, SNOMED International CEO Don Sweete described the collaboration with LOINC as a major breakthrough. “Globally, our implementers operate in a thriving ecosystem of terminology and messaging standards, breeding a certain element of interdependence. With the aim of easing the challenges for implementers of multiple standards, the agreement with LOINC is one that will go the distance in reducing duplicative efforts, facilitating the path to data sharing and interoperability.”

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