Did you know that OCL participated in the 2023 OpenHIE Community Meeting (#OHIE23)?

This meeting was attended by 280 digital health professionals from across 33 different countries. At #OHIE23 there were several unconference (participant-led) sessions on many different health information exchange topics, including one on National Health Data Dictionaries (NHDDs).

What did we learn at the NHDD session? 

This NHDD unconference session was attended by over 50 participants from 20 countries. Many shared experiences and challenges with terminology, terminology services, and ongoing efforts to establish national health data dictionaries (NHDDs). 

So… what did we learn from the discussion? 

  • More and more countries are wanting to do more with terminology whether that be to subset, publish, endorse, etc.. Additionally, NHDDs (or similar nationally-endorsed concept dictionaries) are gaining popularity among country teams. 
  • The primary use case that folks, at least 5 current country teams, are working to achieve is care provision and integrating with their e-health records (EHR).
  • Other use cases that were shared were lab integration reporting, and monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and managing supplies/drugs. 
  • The next step for these countries and for communities like OCL is to build out technical use cases like a national data warehouse submission using NHDD metadata. 
  • ICD-10, LOINC, and CIEL are popular terminologies among the global community. 
  • Other terminologies of interest are FHIR, SNOMED-CT, and ICHI. 
  • There is a need for terminologies that address drugs, pharmaceuticals, and supplies (e.g. GTIN mappings).

In addition, there are many challenges that were shared:

  • There is limited guidance available to implementers seeking to implement an NHDD
  • How do I make pharmaceutical terminologies and information visible to all health systems? 
  • Where do we start if we want to leverage OCL to expedite the mapping process? 
  • How does data privacy and security fit into terminology work? 
  • How to implement an NHDD the government can later take on? 
  • ICD-11 tooling complications
  • Alignment of local terminologies to global standards
  • Integrating and aligning with other software like DHIS2


An emerging NHDD framework

One of the key challenges that was shared at the session was that there is limited guidance available to implementers seeking to implement an NHDD. In response to this, we have started to develop an NHDD Framework that describes the components of a National Health Data Dictionary program: Software, Content, and Governance.

The NHDD Framework builds off the OpenHIE Terminology Management Maturity Model, which presents five levels of terminology management maturity that a government or implementer follows as it works toward deploying terminology to support real-time health data exchange. These frameworks are being developed in the OHIE Terminology Services subcommunity, synthesizing across experiences shared at #OHIE23 and projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, and many other places. The NHDD framework also presents a model for how a country’s health data standards and terminology customizations relate to globally developed reference vocabularies and interface terminologies, and local deployments of terminology at the organizational and facility level.

Following #OHIE23, the discussion continued at a panel hosted at a CDC Shiriki webinar on July 25, 2023, moderated by Joe Amlung, with panelists Dr. Andrew Kanter, Steve Wanyee, and Jonathan Payne. 


Where do we go from here?

On 29 August 2023 there will be a question/answer discussion on NHDDs hosted by CDC Shiriki to continue these conversations. You can learn more and request to join the session using this form.

We also welcome everyone to participate in the OpenHIE Terminology Services calls where we regularly discuss NHDDs and other terminology in HIE topics. Please join in on the conversation to help achieve the reality of a National Health Data Dictionary.