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New IHTSDO Policy Facilitates Inclusion of SNOMED CT Terms and Identifiers in International Research Databases, Other Health IT Standards

Copenhagen, Denmark: January 28thth, 2011.

International Genetic Databases to be early beneficiary

The International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation (IHTSDO) has announced a new policy to enable free use of English-language SNOMED CT terms and identifiers in international research databases, in complementary health IT standards, and in other projects and resources available worldwide. The new policy allows SNOMED CT to serve as a standard vocabulary for key data elements and value sets in international resources that accept input from - and are used in – both IHTSDO Member and non-Member countries. Access to the complete international release of SNOMED CT (including translations, hierarchical, definitional, and mapping relationships) continues to require an IHTSDO Affiliate License. The Affiliate License is free in IHTSDO Member countries, in more than 40 countries designated as low-income by the World Bank, and for approved research projects. Fees apply for regular use in other countries.

In announcing the new policy, Martin Severs, Chair of the IHTSDO Management Board, stated “This is a generic decision for the world to make (parts of) SNOMED CT available as a public good. The first instance of this policy is obviously the free license for low-income countries and this publicly accessible bio-informatics database is a further example.”

In addition, Jan-Eric Slot, Chief Executive Officer of IHTSDO remarked that: “Based on this general decision we expect more requests in the near future for similar use as a public good of SNOMED CT. A robust process has been put in place to ensure handling these requests in a timely manner, whilst assuring the quality standards relevant to the use of a terminology like SNOMED CT.

New international databases in development by the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) will be among the early beneficiaries of the new policy. Betsy Humphreys, Deputy Director of the National Library of Medicine, said that “NLM strongly supports the use of SNOMED CT as the source of standard disease names in international genetic databases and other international research resources. Use of SNOMED CT in biomedical research should aid in the translation of research results into practice. Unambiguous links between electronic health records and information on genetic tests or genetic variations relevant to patient conditions will be increasingly important in individual patient care.”


The IHTSDO (International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation) and its Members seek to improve the health of humankind by fostering the development and use of suitable standardized clinical terminologies, notably SNOMED CT™, in order to support the safe, accurate, and effective exchange of health information. SNOMED CT is a standardized terminology that is used in more than 50 countries around the world as the foundation for electronic health records and other applications. The IHTSDO is an international organization, established as a Danish not‐for‐profit association. SNOMED CT was originally created by the College of American Pathologists by combining SNOMED RT and a computer‐based nomenclature and classification known as Clinical Terms Version 3, formerly known as Read Codes. For more information, see

IHTSDO®, SNOMED® and SNOMED CT® are registered trademarks of the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation.

About NLM

The NLM (U.S. National Library of Medicine), a part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is the U.S. Member of the IHTSDO. NLM is the world’s largest medical library and the producer of databases that are heavily used by researchers, health professionals, and the general public around the world. As the coordinating body for clinical terminology standards within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NLM works closely with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to promote meaningful use of electronic health records, effective health information interchange, and the use of common standards in health care, public health, and biomedical research.

Since its founding in 1836, the National Library of Medicine has played a pivotal role in translating biomedical research into practice and is a leader in information innovation. NLM is the world's largest medical library, and millions of scientists, health professionals and the public around the world use NLM services every day.