Use of SNOMED CT to Represent Clinical Research Data: A Semantic Characterization of Data Items on Case Report Forms in Vasculitis Research

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Clinical Medicine, Clinical Trials as Topic, Humans, Semantics, Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine, Vasculitis

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OBJECTIVE: To estimate the coverage provided by SNOMED CT for clinical research concepts represented by the items on case report forms (CRFs), as well as the semantic nature of those concepts relevant to post-coordination methods.

DESIGN: Convenience samples from CRFs developed by rheumatologists conducting several longitudinal, observational studies of vasculitis were selected. A total of 17 CRFs were used as the basis of analysis for this study, from which a total set of 616 (unique) items were identified. Each unique data item was classified as either a clinical finding or procedure. The items were coded by the presence and nature of SNOMED CT coverage and classified into semantic types by 2 coders.

MEASUREMENTS: Basic frequency analysis was conducted to determine levels of coverage provided by SNOMED CT. Estimates of coverage by various semantic characterizations were estimated.

RESULTS: Most of the core clinical concepts (88%) from these clinical research data items were covered by SNOMED CT; however, far fewer of the concepts were fully covered (that is, where all aspects of the CRF item could be represented completely without post-coordination; 23%). In addition, a large majority of the concepts (83%) required post-coordination, either to clarify context (e.g., time) or to better capture complex clinical concepts (e.g., disease-related findings). For just over one third of the sampled CRF data items, both types of post-coordination were necessary to fully represent the meaning of the item.

CONCLUSION: SNOMED CT appears well-suited for representing a variety of clinical concepts, yet is less suited for representing the full amount of information collected on CRFs.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, v. 13, no. 5, p. 536-546