Health Language Blog

Five Conflicts that Can be Avoided by Enterprise Terminology Management

Posted on 05/12/15


The healthcare industry is rife with clinical terminologies, both proprietary vocabularies and those based on industry standards.

The differences were not such a big deal when many healthcare organizations consumed data at the departmental level and had limited need to exchange data with other departments or outside parties. Today, however, hospitals and health systems seek to exchange data with other departments and, externally, with other providers for improved care coordination. In addition, the rise of big data analytics in healthcare calls for organizations to combine data from different sources.

Those developments require the healthcare sector to get a better handle on the proliferation of terminologies. Enterprise terminology management can help healthcare entities overcome the problems associated with employing multiple, incompatible medical terminologies. Here are five conflicts a terminology management platform can help you avoid:

1. Limited Interoperability, Collaboration

Emerging care delivery models call for greater collaboration among healthcare professionals. The ability to share data becomes crucial in such environments, but fragmentation in healthcare limits the ability to exchange information. A health delivery organization may manage 40 or more separate IT systems, each of which has its own clinical terminology infrastructure. The interoperability conflicts only intensify when organizations attempt to exchange data outside their four walls. In that scenario, the relevant data is scattered across multiple healthcare payers and providers -- all using different systems and disparate terminology sets.

Managing terminology on an enterprise scale, however, lets a healthcare organization adopt a single, integrated and trusted source of terminology truth. This centralized approach approach provides an authoritative content database that harmonizes data within the healthcare enterprise -- as opposed to multiple departments each maintaining their own distinctive terminologies. Getting one’s own terminology house in order is also a key step toward effective data exchange with outside providers and payers.

2. Inefficient Operations

Selecting one terminology management platform for deployment across a given health system provides much greater efficiency than operating redundant, departmental-level terminology solutions. A department-by-department method results in the expense of purchasing and maintaining separate systems for managing terminology. In addition to achieving economies of scale, enterprise terminology management reduces the tension between coding and business teams.

This efficiency boost can be seen in the example of code group management. When an organization manages code groups centrally, under the umbrella of an enterprise terminology management platform, it leverages a layer of technology infrastructure that generates operational savings.

Here’s why: conflicts regarding terminology intake, management and distribution become inevitable when a healthcare organizations lacks an enterprise approach to code group management. Large organizations often try to solve this problem with a combination of spreadsheets and error-prone manual processes. That latter approach involves numerous interdepartmental coordination meetings between informaticists and individual business owners. Enterprise-level management eliminates those conflicts and makes those time-consuming meetings unnecessary.

3. Inconsistency

Terminologies, maps for matching terminologies and code groups -- which draw upon terminologies -- must be periodically updated as policies change and new versions of terminology standards become available. But departments individually attempting to manage terminologies may not update their clinical vocabularies at the same time. Some may fail to do so at all and lag behind others. The result: conflicting terminologies within the same organization. Terminology management at the enterprise level means that terminologies are updated all at once, across the healthcare organization.

4. Deadline Pressure

Regulatory compliance initiatives generally involve a time element. For instance, healthcare providers are now facing a government-imposed October 1, 2015 deadline for transitioning from ICD-9 to ICD-10 code sets. The use of enterprise terminology management can speed up the transition and take the edge off deadline pressure. A terminology management solution offers data normalization and automated mapping, features which smooth the path to ICD-10 conversion.

Similarly, some providers will face deadlines in 2015 for Meaningful Use Stage 2 compliance. Stage 2, for example, makes RxNorm a required vocabulary for communicating medication data and many health systems will need to map their current pharmacy management codes to the RxNorm standard. Terminology management makes the mapping process much faster, helping organizations beat the compliance clock.

5. Working At Cross Purposes

Organizations that manage terminology on a department-by-department basis are unable to create an overarching policy and governance structure. As a consequence, a health system will fail to provide uniform, cross-domain guidance on terminology definition, intended use, versioning and implementation. No one is on the same page. Enterprise terminology management, on the other hand, enables healthcare entities to align and govern strategies across all departments. They can provide cross-domain guidance on terminology definition, intended use cases, versioning and implementation.

Are you bumping into conflicts due to scattershot terminology management? Leave your comments below.

 enterprise terminology management

Topics: enterprise terminology management

About the Author

Jason Wolfson