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Ten years fighting for a single language
SNOMED CT is the clinical vocabulary for electronic patient health records across the NHS. Denise Downs, Principal Terminology Specialist, talks about the ‘major stock take’ that the implementation of SNOMED CT across general practice involved and how she gained the support of clinicians.
16 January 2020
Ten years ago, when I took up my role to support SNOMED CT implementation, I realised very quickly that no one knew what it was, let alone recognised its benefits.
Most people still have no idea what I’m talking about at dinner parties. However, where it matters, there has been a significant change in awareness. At a recent national conference for providers of mental health services, not only did everyone know what SNOMED CT was, but a mental health trust was giving advice on its implementation. This was a first, although the number of people who don’t know what SNOMED CT is has been reducing year on year.
I’m proud of how far the health system has come in the last 10 years. In a few months’ time, almost all GP practices in England will use SNOMED CT.
If we estimate a cost-saving of two minutes per letter, this results in an average saving of over two hours of staff time per practice, per week.
A tipping point in gaining the support of clinicians occurred when they learned of the cost-saving and time-saving benefits of using SNOMED CT. For example, GP surgeries receive over two million A&E discharge letters per month that need to be coded. Receiving these letters in SNOMED CT removes the need for practices to do this themselves. If we estimate a cost-saving of two minutes per letter, this results in an average saving of over two hours of staff time per practice, per week.
We also engaged with the Joint GP IT Committee, who fully support the move to using SNOMED CT as a universal language. They continue to increase awareness and uptake of SNOMED CT by providing advice and written updates to their members.
SNOMED CT is a structured clinical vocabulary for use in an electronic health record. It is the most comprehensive and precise clinical health terminology product in the world.