AAHA releases standardized diagnostic terms for veterinary medicine

Following seven years of development by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Diagnostic Code Task Force and Review Board and working with the Veterinary Terminology Services Laboratory (VTSL), the Association has finished mapping the AAHA Diagnostic Terms to the Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine — Clinical Terms® (SNOMED-CT®). The terms are now available under reciprocal open-source licenses, without fee or royalty.
SNOMED-CT® is a systematically organized computerized collection of medical terminology. Most areas of clinical information such as diseases, findings, procedures, microorganisms and pharmaceuticals are covered within this system. It provides a consistent way to index, store, retrieve and aggregate clinical data across specialties and sites of care. It also helps organize the content of medical records, reducing the variability in the way data is captured, encoded and used for clinical care of patients and research.
The AAHA Diagnostic Terms were created in recognition of the need to exchange clinical information consistently among different health care providers, care settings, researchers and others. Clinicians and organizations often use different clinical terms that mean the same thing. For example, the terms heart attack, myocardial infarction and MI may mean the same thing to a cardiologist, but to a computer, they are all different. Because medical information is recorded differently from place to place (on paper or electronically), a comprehensive, unified medical terminology system is needed as part of the information infrastructure.
“Creating and utilizing common veterinary medical terminology enables us to collect clinical medicine metrics which has been nearly impossible until now.  Analyzing these metrics will lead to increased knowledge of disease prevalence,” said Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP, AAHA Executive Director. “I would like to thank the members of the task force and review board for sticking with what proved to be a very challenging project.”
Although single practices can develop their own diagnostic terms, problems arise when veterinarians attempt to combine or compare data with other hospitals. Using standardized diagnostic terms enable veterinarians to create and share data to track disease incidence within their practice and nationwide. Veterinarians can monitor patient response to treatments and measure client compliance – the possibilities are endless regarding the clinical metrics that can be generated.
To access the AAHA Diagnostic Terms, users must apply for a free International Affiliate Number or a Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) number from the National Institute of Medicine. Having a license number to use the terms is necessary because the terms are mapped to SNOMED-CT® codes. Links to apply for a UMLS number, review the AAHA license agreement, and view the AAHA Diagnostic Terms can be found online at www.aahanet.org/resources/guidelines.aspx.
For more information please contact Jason Merrihew at 720-963-4479 or Jason.merrihew@aahanet.org.


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