NEHTA and vendors plan for wider use of AMT

The National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) has released a plan to accelerate uptake of the Australian Medicines Terminology (AMT). Developed with the software industry, the plan helps vendors to make a decision about if and when they want to include AMT in their software.

Ultimately, NEHTA’s long term goal is semantic interoperability. The plan works towards this goal while acknowledging the different approaches vendors can adopt, and being realistic about what steps vendors are willing to take at this stage in our progress.

A standard clinical language is essential for a distributed eHealth system to work. We need consistent clinical terminology in the healthcare systems across Australia, which are communicating with each other and connecting with the PCEHR.

The AMT is a national terminology of medicines, which assists interoperability between clinical information systems. A derivative of the international terminology SNOMED CT, it includes concepts, identifiers, and descriptions. It provides a standard national approach to the identification and naming of medicines.

Initially released in December 2007, the AMT has been implemented in some systems — most notably across the Department of Health Victoria in 12 hospitals. Other implementations underway include The Department of Health and Ageing’s Pharbiz Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme system, and the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record lead site implementations.

However, limited drivers for vendors to adopt AMT, and a lack of guidance material on how to implement AMT has inhibited more widespread adoption. Vendors have also expressed concern about the lack of an AMT roadmap, which would help them determine when to implement.

In mid-2011, the eHealth ICT Industry Implementation Group discussed the level of adoption of the AMT in Australian health software. With representatives from the Department of Health and Ageing, NEHTA, Medicare Australia, the Medical Software Industry Association, Australian Information Industry Association, Australian Association of Practice Managers, and Aged Care IT Vendor Association, this group meets monthly to discuss eHealth implementation.

The group wanted to accelerate the adoption of AMT by addressing the barriers to uptake, and asked NEHTA to work with the group to develop an implementation plan.

Released in September 2011, the AMT Implementation Plan is an important step in addressing the barriers to adoption identified by vendors. It puts AMT in the context of other activity by vendors and governments, and includes a number of commitments by NEHTA to release products to support the increased adoption of AMT. These include a guide to implementation, a list of reference implementations, mapping guidelines and a governance model. The mapping guidelines have now been published and the implementation guide is on track for external peer review in November, with publication in December.

The plan takes a staged approach with phase one concluding in June 2012. The first phase builds on work currently being undertaken by vendors to map AMT to their proprietary medicines databases. While this step doesn’t result in benefits like improved decision support in systems, it is required for communication of medication information between different clinical systems and is necessary for lead PCEHR implementations. Future steps will include support for vendors moving away from mapping to an implementation of the terminology and information models within their systems.

Further to the detailed activities to June 2012, the plan describes the development of an AMT roadmap, which we will derive from consultation with a wider group of vendors, implementers and stakeholders. This roadmap will, for the first time, give vendors a level of surety of deliverables, enabling them to factor in new enhancements and features of the AMT into their product development life cycles.

This work will begin shortly so that the next phase will be able to begin on schedule in July 2012. NEHTA will work with industry to identify and prioritise missing elements of AMT that could be identified as barriers to use. These may include areas of technical delivery, additional use cases, clinical safety, and possible links to other systems.

The plan is available online and will be updated periodically to reflect new information to increase the use, and ultimately the benefits, of AMT. Enabling unambiguous communication and interpretation across different healthcare settings will not only create efficiencies in medications management, it is a critical piece in the solution to reduce adverse drug events, which could save thousands of lives every year.

Further Information

NEHTA has been tasked by the governments of Australia to develop better ways of electronically collecting and securely exchanging health information, and is the lead organisation supporting the national vision for eHealth in Australia.

For specific information about AMT, please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Author Details

Bettina McMahon
Policy and Information Services
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Bettina McMahon leads the Policy and Information Services area at NEHTA, incorporating the policy and privacy functions, national product catalogue and supply chain, clinical terminology and information and Healthcare Identifier (HI) Service operations. Bettina has been with NEHTA since September 2009 and was initially NEHTA’s Head of Policy and Privacy.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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