Healthcare has a lot of terminology standards. The sheer number of acronyms alone is often overwhelming, leaving industry professionals to wonder which ones they need to know.
The relevancy and importance of healthcare terminology depend on the user’s goals. Different healthcare terminology standards fulfill distinct purposes, and each generally does a good job meeting its purpose. In other words, when users match their purpose with the correct standard, they generally find the right term.
Matching a purpose with the correct standard starts with identifying the standard’s purpose. Basically, there are billing, clinical, laboratory, and pharmacy terminology standards:
Healthcare organizations use billing terminology standards to support aspects of medical billing. International Classifications of Diseases (ICD) is a diagnosis code set. As of 2021, the United States uses the version ICD-10, with ICD-11 coming in the future. Diagnosis-related groups (DRGs) are common in the inpatient setting to bill for a patient’s hospital stay. Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) generally covers procedure billing.
Interoperability initiatives increasingly reference clinical terminology standards. Many different standards exist and tend to have a specific clinical or workflow emphasis. The following are examples of the most common clinical terminology standards:
The Regenstrief Institute developed and maintains the Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC®). This terminology initially encoded lab observations but has since expanded to represent clinical observations. LOINC is an open-source standard, which the industry widely considers the definitive lab standard. It is also the main standard for clinical observations referenced by measures.
Many commercially available solutions represent the pharmacy terminology space, including First Databank, Multum, Micromedex, and Medi-Span. The interoperability standard recommended for pharmacy terminology is the open-source RxNorm, available through the NLM. RxNorm has some mappings to the proprietary standards to facilitate interoperability.
There are other terminology standards available for niche use cases, but the above listing covers the most prominent options. Terminology users will want to clarify their objectives and do their research (i.e., match purpose and standard) before embarking on any terminology project. When users simplify the terminology process by matching purpose with standard, they’re more likely to arrive at the appropriate term.
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