The International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation has announced that a new version of SNOMED CT is now available.

The international release, which is the second this year, has a series of refinements aimed at enabling clinicians to continue working with IT systems with minimal disruption to their daily routines.

Revisions to the international version of SNOMED CT are released twice a year. Each release includes the core of the terminology – concepts, descriptions and relationships – together with works to support the implementation and use of SNOMED CT.

These include subsets, cross maps to existing classifications and coding schemes and an extensive set of guidelines.

The updates are driven by users of the terminology and prior to release, the SNOMED CT content undergoes a quality assurance process. A preliminary version is then pre-released to members for broader review before the final files are generated and distributed.

Enhancements in the new international version include improvements to the definitions of concepts in the specimen hierarchy, allowing automated processes to appropriately place concepts within the hierarchy.

Standard naming conventions and consistent definitions have also been implemented for many new imaging procedure concepts, to allow for easier data retrieval.

The development organisation (IHTSDO) says that adopting standardised naming conventions for imaging procedures will assist SNOMED CT users in retrieving content, while the availability of synonyms for concepts in SNOMED CT will allow clinicians to continue using their preferred terms.

In the pharmaceutical sector, dose forms have been added to many concept definitions, allowing computer-readable definitions. The aim is to improve a clinician’s ability to identify specific drug products that have multiple dose forms and enable decision support systems to more readily differentiate between these forms for treatment, contraindications and adverse effects.

Over 2,000 new organisms monitored by organisations such as the US centre for disease control and prevention have also been added, as well as a new references table, which allows the inclusion of historical information about retired descriptions.

This means that a concept with now inappropriate descriptions can now remain active and only the description is inactivated and referenced to another active concept.

“Consistent, on-time delivery of SNOMED CT releases is critical to IHTSDO Member nations and other users who rely on the terminology in their electronic health record applications,” said Jennifer Zelmer, CEO of the IHTSDO.

She added: “Ultimately, the quality of patient care will be improved by the use of a standardized terminology and electronic health records.”