New standards model developed for veterinary medical data

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Dr. James T. Case of the University of California-Davis has developed the first formal veterinary information model for inclusion in the Health Level Seven (HL7) standard; an international, American National Standards Institute-accredited standard for the electronic exchange of medical information. Previously an exclusively human standard, the HL7 information model now supports data related to nonhuman animals, environmental samples, and food safety samples. He has also developed several hundred veterinary-specific terms to be included in the Logical Observation Identifiers, Names, and Codes (LOINC) standard, which provides a set of universal names and codes for identifying laboratory and clinical observations.

The AVMA sponsored Dr. Case's activities in 1999 and 2000 at the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis, where, as part of the Standards Subcommittee, he helped develop the HL7 model. In November 1999, the AVMA Executive Board approved $15,750 in additional funding through 2001 for Dr. Case to continue working at the institute toward HL7 inclusion of veterinary-specific structures for data exchange and enhancement of the LOINC database. This work will include diagnostic tests specified by the Office Internationale des Epizooties (OIE) which have been completed, and diagnostic tests specified by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL), which are in development. Information from veterinary diagnostic laboratories and teaching hospitals is also forthcoming.

data input

"This will be a source for real-time trend analysis of the status of diseases in animal populations," Dr. Case said. "Currently the only way you get a status of what's really going on in populations is either anecdotally or through publications, which are anywhere from a year to two or three years old. This will provide a source of up-to-date information about what's going on in animal populations with regard to specific diseases. You'll also be able to do retrospective studies for trend analysis."

This is the first time criteria for nonhuman veterinary data have been accommodated within the HL7 model. HL7 was founded in 1987 to develop standards for the electronic interchange of clinical, financial, and administrative information among independent health care-oriented computer systems, such as hospital information systems, clinical laboratory systems, enterprise systems, and pharmacy systems. This model has a reputation as the standard for human medicine. It is used in most large hospitals today.

Dr. Case said he anticipated the imminent completion of first formal draft specifications for sending messages to the Veterinary Medical Data Base, housed at Purdue University. "It will allow automatic transfer of information from practice management and veterinary hospital information systems to the veterinary medical database," he said.

While more information is being compiled - an ongoing task - these steps provide the building blocks for the routine transmission of animal disease information to a central repository, Dr. Case said. That repository can then be used to do consolidation and summary analysis on the status of animal diseases across the nation.

"Because it's going to be a publicly available standard, anyone who is interested in participating can use that standard and transfer, exchange, and add to their information," Dr. Case said. The specifications will be provided to system vendors to review whether they can implement the specifications.

Dr. Case said the work being done by Dr. Jeff Wilcke, Blacksburg, Va, with the Systemized Nomenclature of Human and Veterinary Medicine (SNOMED) to create a standardized veterinary terminology is also vital to the overall goal of building a consensus for veterinary medical standards.

"Once all the information is in, it will provide a standard foundation so that we're all saying the same thing," Dr. Case said. "Essentially the work is about creating a common language."

Following a recommendation from the Committee on Veterinary Medical Informatics, the AVMA Executive Board has approved an annual meeting of the Standards Subcommittee of the informatics committee at the AVMA Annual Convention, to communicate the importance of veterinary medical standards to interested vendors and stakeholders, and progress in developing the standards. The meeting will help expedite incorporation of appropriate standards into veterinary software, and facilitate sharing and communication of veterinary medical data. The progress of Systemized Nomenclature of Human and Veterinary Medicine, HL-7 standards for identifying laboratory and clinical observations, and Logical Observation Identifiers, Names, and Codes will be discussed at the meeting.