The significance of SNODENT

Medical Informatics Europe 2005: 737-742 (2005)
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Abstract

SNODENT is a dental diagnostic vocabulary incompletely integrated in SNOMED-CT. Nevertheless, SNODENT could become the de facto standard for dental diagnostic coding. SNODENT's manageable size, the fact that it is administratively self-contained, and relates to a well-understood domain provides valuable opportunities to formulate and test, in controlled experiments, a series of hypothesis concerning diagnostic systems. Of particular interest are questions related to establishing appropriate quality assurance methods for its optimal level of detail in content, its ontological structure, its construction and maintenance. This paper builds on previous–software-based methodologies designed to assess the quality of SNOMED-CT. When applied to SNODENT several deficiencies were uncovered. 9.52% of SNODENT terms point to concepts in SNOMED-CT that have some problem. 18.53% of SNODENT terms point to SNOMED-CT concepts do not have, in SNOMED, the term used by SNODENT. Other findings include the absence of a clear specification of the exact relationship between a term and a termcode in SNODENT and the improper assignment of the same termcode to terms with significantly different meanings. An analysis of the way in which SNODENT is structurally integrated into SNOMED resulted in the generation of 1081 new termcodes reflecting entities not present in the SNOMED tables but required by SNOMED's own description logic based classification principles. Our results show that SNODENT requires considerable enhancements in content, quality of coding, quality of ontological structure and the manner in which it is integrated and aligned with SNOMED. We believe that methods for the analysis of the quality of diagnostic coding systems must be developed and employed if such systems are to be used effectively in both clinical practice and clinical research.

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Barry Smith
University at Buffalo

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