Tuesday, August 12, 2008

While the standards world was besotted with terminology over the last 20 years, clinical modelling remained relatively unloved and under-resourced, with the occasional exception (eg GALEN) proving the rule. It may have been obvious that terms would never 'enable' the EPR without some structures to hang them on, but it has taken a while for this to get more serious attention in the informatics mainstream.

Clinical content standards development is now a fast growing area of informatics, and is one where clinical and informatics expertise needs to collaborate closely. In the UK, most recent interest in standards has focussed on openEHR archetypes and templates- eg NHS Clinical Models.

While the standards (and the standardised models) sort themselves out, the world moves on, with everyone and their dogs developing their own content, sometimes sharing it, usually not. Clinical content remains embedded in working systems, often wrapped in licensing agreements preventing sharing and re-use. Standardised tools are used, without any attention to copyright restrictions that might apply.

There has been previous work to address this, for example, 'Tools and Rules', but there is scope for something more long-term and 'open'.

The new site has just gone live as an open source portal for various projects working on the collaborative development and sharing of clinical templates and supporting documentation.

The project offers a web ‘shell’ for each collaborative project site, supporting groups, membership, news, blogs, newsfeeds, and wiki. Within that, the project is developing a range of plugins to support template building, mappings and other project-specific tools.

New projects are in preparation and will appear on the site over the next few months- each one is a little different and should build into an interesting collection. aims to become a long-term home or point of access to template development by many groups and in many countries. It is supported by a new company setup by Derek Hoy and Nick Hardiker.

[disclosure of interest: I am a lead developer of and partner in SnowCloud]

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