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Kaiser Permanente Goes “Open Source” With Their Internal Medical Terminology

by Clive Riddle, October 1, 2010

In Meaningful Use news, Kaiser Permanente has announced that they are donating their “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.”

The stated objective is to make KP’s experience and formerly proprietary system 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.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has commented that “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. 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."

Jack Cochran, MD, Executive Director of The Permanente Federation added that “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."

Kaiser’s system involves “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[CMT] 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 CMT donation incorporates the following:

  • terminology content KP has already developed
  • a set of tools to help create and manage terminology,
  • processes to control the quality of terminology that is developed.
  • 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

Kaiser provided the following additional information about their CMT system:

  • 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.
  • 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 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.

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