CSIRO and NEHTA join forces for free access to terminology service

The CSIRO and the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) have signed a licensing agreement to make tools for implementing and using clinical terminologies such as SNOMED more freely available.

The tools include CSIRO's Ontoserver, a terminology server that provides a means of querying, searching, filtering and ranking SNOMED CT AU and other standard clinical terminologies.

Ontoserver has an application programming interface (API) that allows a quick and easy way for implementers to add SNOMED CT-based data capture fields to their system.

It also includes CSIRO's Snapper mapping tool, which allows users to map legacy terminologies to SNOMED, and NEHTA's Lingo, an authoring tool used by the National Clinical Terminology Service (NCTS).

The NCTS manages the licensing of SNOMED CT in Australia on behalf of the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation (IHTSDO) as well as the development of the Australian Medicines Terminology (AMT), which is a sub-set of SNOMED.

A NEHTA spokesperson said the terms of the agreement between CSIRO and NEHTA were confidential, but that it was an IP licence agreement.

The spokesperson said it would enable NEHTA to set up a fully 'syndicated' terminology server service which will share terminology content like SNOMED CT-AU to other terminology servers operated by participating parties such as state health departments.

“The connected terminology servers may choose which content they would like to receive,” the spokesperson said.

A web portal and request submission service will also be established by the NCTS along with a registry to enable users to collaborate and share locally developed content. The NEHTA spokesperson said these users could include sub-licensees such as the jurisdictions, software vendors, private hospitals, universities and individuals.

The service will also use the HL7 FHIR standard as part of the design. FHIR provides a standards base for representing clinical terminology resources as well as an API to support the provision of terminology services.

FHIR can also be used by sub-licensees to load their own local content as long as it conforms to the FHIR value set specification, the spokesperson said.

Besides SNOMED CT and the AMT, other nationally recognised terminologies such as the pathology code sets developed through the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia's Pathology Information, Terminology and Units Standardisation (PITUS) project could be included.

David Hansen, CEO of CSIRO's joint venture Australian e-Health Research Centre, said he saw the agreement as an opportunity to deepen CSIRO's relationships with state and federal health agencies and with industry.

"CSIRO has developed scientific expertise in clinical terminology over the past eight years, demonstrated with the adoption of Snorocket to maintain SNOMED CT internationally, and now through the licensing of these software tools for Australia,” Dr Hansen said.

Stephen Moo, NT Health CIO and chair of the National Health CIO Forum, said ensuring these tools were deployed and integrated within core clinical electronic health record systems was “a huge leap forward in getting all the computer systems involved in our healthcare system to talk to each other in the same language”.

NEHTA will be running pilots in early 2016 involving early project partners such as government departments, hospitals or vendors who will implement and administer a server prior to a national roll-out from mid-2016.

It will also hold three connectathons, with the first scheduled for next February. Anyone interested in attending an information session or a connectathon can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The NEHTA spokesperson said the organisation expects that the new national digital health agency being established next July to take over its role will inherit the agreement.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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