SNOMED International, a division of the College of American Pathologists, and the NHS Information Authority have announced they have successfully completed testing of SNOMED (SNOMED CT).

This next generation work of terminology combines the expertise of SNOMED RT and the NHS’ Clinical Terms Version 3 (Read Codes) to create the most comprehensive clinical terminology available worldwide.

All NHS organisations must begin to adopt SNOMED (CT) from 2003 onwards, which will be vital to the development and adoption of electronic patient records and use of information technology to improve the delivery of health services.

The alpha test was conducted between July and the end of September 2001, and included the participation of more than 42 sites including software vendors, general practitioners, government agencies and acute care hospitals in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, The Netherlands and Iceland.

The goal of the alpha test was to demonstrate that SNOMED CT follows core table structure specifications and reflects both US and UK dialects.

Developers were provided a data set for experimentation, while clinicians had a chance to view and comment on data in selected clinical domains, such as breast neoplasm, respiratory tract infection, orbital region disorders, procedure of eyes and related structures, urinary procedure, urinary disorders and body structure.

SNOMED International and the NHSIA have been collaborating on the development of SNOMED CT since April 1999. These efforts have resulted in an international, multi-lingual terminology resource for healthcare containing more than 300,000 concepts, 400,000 descriptions or synonyms and approximately one million semantic relationships between clinical concepts.

Building the Information Core, the January 2001 update to the NHS’s IT strategy Information for Health, committed the NHS to adopting SNOMED CT as its official clinical terminology by 2003.

"The alpha test was the beginning of the development of proof of concept applications that will showcase functionality of SNOMED CT and ultimately benefit all types of global healthcare applications in a variety of clinical settings," said Kent Spackman, chair of the SNOMED International Editorial Board.

The structure of SNOMED CT provides a framework to manage language dialects, subsets, qualifiers and clinical extensions. The terminology will also be able to represent terms and concepts unique to a specific organization or locality, so different users can take advantage of its broad coverage while integrating their own specific codes into SNOMED CT.