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AAHA develping unified diagnostic code to improve care


Denver, Colo. - To help veterinarians track disease and client health-care compliance, standardized diagnostic terms are under development by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).

DENVER, COLO. — To help veterinarians track disease and client health-care compliance, standardized diagnostic terms are under development by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).

"Use of a standardized list of diagnostic terms enables veterinarians to create and share data that will provide the opportunity to track disease incidence within their practice and nationwide, monitor patient response to treatment, measure client compliance — the possibilities are endless regarding the clinical metrics that can be generated," says Linda Workman, DVM and AAHA veterinary adviser.

Under way since mid-2004, the code terms were completed last year by the AAHA Diagnostic Codes Task Force and are being fine-tuned in beta testing. A newly created Diagnostic Codes Review Board (DCRB) will oversee finalization of terms and will maintain the list after its release to veterinary practice-management and electronic medical-record software vendors, Workman says. The release date hinges on final update and approval timelines.

"We are hopeful the terms will be available next year," she says. The list of terms will be made compatible with the Systemized Nomenclature of Medicine (SNOMED) program — an international systemized nomenclature for medicine — but applicable to private companion-animal practices.

The list will improve practice compliance with the AAHA Medical Records Standards section for Electronic Health Records that requires "standardized medical nomenclature for diagnosis and problem lists" and "a recognized mechanism for standardized transmission and analysis of data," while also aiding pet owners and their animals.

"By creating and utilizing common veterinary medical terminology, we will be able to collect clinical medicine metrics from which we will gain increased knowledge of disease prevalence and also acquire a means of measuring quality of clinical care which helps the veterinary industry, veterinary practitioners, pet owners and pets," Workman says.

"Standardized lists of diagnostic terms existed prior to 2004, but the board appreciated the fact that those lists were long, complex and difficult to implement at the small-animal practice level," says Dan Aja, DVM, former AAHA president and DCRB chair.

"The task force was charged with creating a less detailed but more manageable list of diagnostic terms that would initially include approximately 90 percent of the diseases commonly seen by small-animal veterinarians in the United States."

Software vendors are absorbing the cost of putting the codes into a programmable form, while AAHA is supporting the educational aspects — promoting the codes to AAHA practices and the veterinary industry as a whole, says Thomas Carpenter, DVM and AAHA president.

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