Support for Standard Terminology Use in Veterinary Services Surveillance Programs

Based in part on the successful application of information standards in the NAHLN, USDA Center for Animal Health Information and Analysis (CAHIA) has recognized that standardization of the terminology used in Veterinary Services (VS) programs is an important step in allowing for the integration of data that is required for timely identification of emerging animal diseases and biological threats to our nation's food supply. At present, disparate terminologies are created for use within specific USDA programs. USDA program terminologies tend to overlap in their coverage of certain topics (e.g. subject taxonomy). Despite the overlap in content, the fact that most concepts can be described using more than one phrase (e.g., a particular Salmonella may have 5 different text strings that are considered synonymous) means that data cannot be shared among the programs. Data sharing and aggregation requires that these disparate terminologies must be reconciled. The use of a standard terminology, such as SNOMED CT®, in place of these disparate terminologies would allow direct communication of data. SNOMED CT® has been recognized by the federal government as a national standard for terminology which should be implemented in federal programs wherever possible.

An overall goal is to develop a system for use by VS programs that includes the essential characteristics of a controlled medical vocabulary by developing and utilizing subsets of the Veterinary Adaptation of the Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT®) which is maintained by the Veterinary Terminology Service Laboratory (VTSL) at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. As an initial step towards this goal, CAHIA aims to create an updated version of the standardized subject taxonomy value set currently available and published in Appendix B of the Surveillance and Data Standards for USDA/APHIS/Veterinary Services (v1.0) document.