Highlights of Moving Toward International Standards in Primary Care Informatics: Clinical Vocabulary

Conference Summary, New Orleans, November 1995

The full text of the Conference Summary Report (AHCPR Pub. No. 96-0069) is available online, or you may order a print copy from the Publications Clearinghouse. Call toll free 800-358-9295.


The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) and the American Medical Informatics Association cosponsored an international conference aimed at moving toward vocabulary standards for coding primary care data. In collecting health services research data, AHCPR relies on documentation provided by primary care practitioners. Without data standards and vocabulary, researchers will not be able to capture the content of primary care practice.


Many vocabularies exist for describing primary health care. Consistent use of any one vocabulary is rarely found even within the boundaries of individual nations, much less throughout the world. The conference participants first agreed on the characteristics needed for a primary care vocabulary. Then they agreed that no existing vocabulary is sufficient for the many needs of primary care, health statistics, billing, and health services research.

In this report, the strengths and weaknesses of the current primary care vocabularies are identified. The International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC), the Read Codes, the Systematized Nomenclature of Human and Veterinary Medicine (SNOMED), and the National Library of Medicine's Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) are examined. The conference participants agreed that ICPC, the Read Codes, and SNOMED should be used as building blocks for a standard vocabulary. All primary care vocabularies should be added to UMLS , which should be explored as a possible link to connect the coding systems proposed for primary care.

Page last reviewed November 1995
Internet Citation: Highlights of Moving Toward International Standards in Primary Care Informatics: Clinical Vocabulary: Conference Summary, New Orleans, November 1995. November 1995. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/research/findings/final-reports/pcinform/highconf.html