What are data standards and why do we need them?
Data standards - as the name suggests are agreed upon guidelines for recording /storing data elements or datasets. Adhering to data standards makes the sharing and exchange of data easy and streamlined. Let's look at an example to understand the value of data standards. Here is a hypothetical case where three hospital systems are following three different "standards" for storing the 'Gender' of a patient.
Now, imagine you are an IT company that has been tasked to develop a claim adjudication engine which is compatible with all three hospital systems above. Though it's not impossible to build such a system, however, not having data standards makes the task challenging. Also, lack of data standards is potentially a source for errors when combining data across multiple systems, e.g., if the developer assumes that 0/1 representation in case of Hospital B is same as that of Hospital A then this will lead to a huge systemic issue.
Key data standards in health informatics
There are six key data standards in healthcare:
1. Systematized Nomenclature for Medicine - Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT) 2. International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) 3. Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) 4. Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC) 5. National Drug Code (NDC) 6. RxNorm Briefly, SNOMED CT is the most comprehensive, multilingual clinical healthcare terminology in the world. ICD and CPT are widely used for medical billing. LOINC provides significant details about clinical tests. NDC is a US-specific standard for medications maintained by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). RxNorm is US-specific terminology in medicine that contains all medications available on the US market.