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Open Access for Healthcare Data Dictionary

June 27, 2012
by John DeGaspari
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The U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have reached an agreement with Salt Lake City-based 3M Health Information Systems to make the 3M Healthcare Data Dictionary (HDD) freely available as open-source content and software. HDD, which has been deployed since 1996 by 3M under an agreement with the DoD and VA, was started as a development project to standardize clinical information. (More information on HDD can be found at

HDD is the core technology that makes it possible to share medical information and secure patient data between providers at U.S. military treatment facilities and VA Medical Centers, which provide care for 32 million servicemen and their families. It is now available to wider healthcare industry, including hospitals, health systems, physician practices, payers, public health agencies, as well as other vendors.

HDD incorporates and links terms from multiple clinical information systems and standard terminologies. It maps disparate medical terms to give data context and meaning; and is used to standardize data to make it more interoperable and computable. It is a concept-based vocabulary and knowledge base.

All major healthcare standard terminologies are mapped into HDD, including SNOMED CT, LOINC, ICD-9 and ICD-10. Pending approval from international organizations, these standards will also be included with the open access software for organizations and users who have proper authorization. In addition, local terminologies are also mapped into HDD, allowing healthcare organizations to continue to collect data with existing information systems and then crosswalk the data to industry standards for semantic interoperability.

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