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Background |  Areas of Current Investigation


First published in 1975, the Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine (SNOMED) is a comprehensive coding system that draws from both the New York Academy of Medicine's Standard Nomenclature of Diseases and Operations (SNDO) and the College of American Pathologist's (CAP's) Standard Nomenclature of Pathology (SNOP). SNOMED was revised and expanded as it matured into the Systematized Nomenclature of Human and Veterinary Medicine (SNOMED International) in 1993.

Today SNOMED International remains a division of CAP and is an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited Standards Developing Organization (SDO), responsible for the continued development and maintenance of the SNOMED Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT) coding standard.

SNOMED CT was acquired in April 2007 by the International Health Terminology Standards Organization (IHTSDO). The IHTSDO purchased the intellectual property of SNOMED CT and antecedent works from CAP, which created and maintained it for more than 40 years. The goal of the change in ownership was to promote international adoption and use of SNOMED CT. The IHTSDO is responsible for ongoing maintenance, development, quality assurance, and distribution of SNOMED CT. CAP will continue to support SDO operations under contract and to provide SNOMED-related products and services as a licensee of the terminology.

SNOMED CT is the most comprehensive clinical vocabulary in English (or any language), covering most aspects of clinical medicine. SNOMED CT is often used to represent clinical concepts (e.g., pain in throat) in an electronic medical record (EMR).  SNOMED CT also maps to other medical terminologies and classification systems already in use. This avoids duplicate data capture while facilitating enhanced health reporting, billing, and statistical analysis. It also provides a framework to manage language dialects, clinically relevant subsets, qualifiers, and extensions, as well as concepts and terms unique to particular organizations or localities.

SNOMED CT is part of the National Library of Medicine's (NLM's) Unified Medical Language System (UMLS). Under a contract with CAP, NLM will distribute SNOMED CT content (codes and concepts) with its UMLS under its UMLS License Agreement. For more information regarding the distribution of SNOMED CT via the UMLS, refer to "U.S. Users - Access to SNOMED CT."

The Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, and Veterans Affairs have selected SNOMED CT for use by Federal agencies for laboratory result contents, non-laboratory interventions and procedures, anatomy, diagnoses and problems, and nursing. This selection was part of the Consolidated Health Informatics initiative to allow for electronic exchange of clinical information across the Federal Government.

In April 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) adopted the SNOMED CT "Problem List" Subset, developed through a partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs and Kaiser Permanente, for use in electronic labeling for prescription drug products 

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. This use for medical product labeling will improve the domestic exchange of product information in FDA-approved package inserts.

Areas of Current Investigation

SNOMED CT is one of a suite of designated standards for use in U.S. Federal Government systems for the electronic exchange of clinical health information and is also a required standard in interoperability specifications of the U.S. Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel.

The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.