Possibilities and implications of using the ICF and other vocabulary standards in electronic health records
There is now widespread recognition of the powerful potential of electronic health record (EHR) systems to improve the health-care delivery system. The benefits of EHRs grow even larger when the health data within their purview are seamlessly shared, aggregated and processed across different providers, settings and institutions. Yet, the plethora of idiosyncratic conventions for identifying the same clinical content in different information systems is a fundamental barrier to fully leveraging the potential of EHRs. Only by adopting vocabulary standards that provide the lingua franca across these local dialects can computers efficiently move, aggregate and use health data for decision support, outcomes management, quality reporting, research and many other purposes. In this regard, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) is an important standard for physiotherapists because it provides a framework and standard language for describing health and health-related states. However, physiotherapists and other health-care professionals capture a wide range of data such as patient histories, clinical findings, tests and measurements, procedures, and so on, for which other vocabulary standards such as Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes and Systematized Nomenclature Of Medicine Clinical Terms are crucial for interoperable communication between different electronic systems. In this paper, we describe how the ICF and other internationally accepted vocabulary standards could advance physiotherapy practise and research by enabling data sharing and reuse by EHRs. We highlight how these different vocabulary standards fit together within a comprehensive record system, and how EHRs can make use of them, with a particular focus on enhancing decision-making. By incorporating the ICF and other internationally accepted vocabulary standards into our clinical information systems, physiotherapists will be able to leverage the potent capabilities of EHRs and contribute our unique clinical perspective to other health-care providers within the emerging electronic health information infrastructure. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.