What is standardized terminology?
If you’ve read our previous articles, you may already know, “a standardized terminology is simply a common language, nomenclature, classification, or taxonomy designed to be shared among users. Standardized terminology allows interoperability between technologies like electronic health records.”
Standardized terminology helps clinicians, providers, public health workers, and others communicate their interventions, care, and outcomes in a meaningful way. It creates data that can be compared to other data apples to apples.
Why is it essential to the future of public health?
Health departments depend on funding, policy, and legislation to do the work that they do. Standardized terminology provides you with powerful data to back up the value of your work and prove your outcomes so you can obtain funding and have a voice with policymakers and legislators.
Data itself is easy to accrue, but ensuring the data works for you is much harder. Standardized terminology ensures that is collected in a meaningful, reportable way.
Karen S. Martin, RN, MSN, FAAN, Healthcare Consultant for Martin Associates, member Omaha System Board of Directors put it well when she said, “Having quantitative data demands that huge amounts of data are collected and processed, however that data remains largely in EHR ‘data cemeteries.’ That’s what we’ve really got to get away from. We have to move from collecting data, to using data. We need to convert data to information, knowledge, and wisdom.”
“Having quantitative data demands that huge amounts of data are collected and processed, however that data remains largely in EHR ‘data cemeteries.’ That’s what we’ve really got to get away from. We have to move from collecting data, to using data. We need to convert data to information, knowledge, and wisdom.”
Standardized terminology empowers public health workers to convert data to information, knowledge, and wisdom.
What are some examples?
Healthy People 2030
Standardized terminology is a powerful tool for public health workers aiming to accomplish the goals of Healthy People 2030. The Healthy People 2030 framework centers largely on the concepts of health equity, eliminating health disparities, upstream interventions, and cross-sector collaboration to accomplish community health goals. Some ways that standardized terminology helps achieve these goals are:
- Creating a common language that different programs, departments, or sectors can use to describe interventions and outcomes
- Documenting social determinants of health so that problems needing upstream interventions and interventions to address health equity can be identified
- Collecting standardized data that can show community status prior to, during, and after interventions so that measurable progress can be seen or areas for improvement in interventions can be identified
During the Michigan Premier Public Health Conference in 2017, Karen Monsen, PhD, RN, FAAN, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota School of Nursing and Director of the Omaha System Partnership, spoke on Empowering Local Health Departments to Address Health Equity through standardized terminology, “[Health equity] is the reason behind the work that we do. It’s the reason that we need data. To be able to show ourselves. To be able to make data-driven decisions. But also, to show the outcomes of what we do so that we can continue the work we do.”
“[Health equity] is the reason behind the work that we do. It’s the reason that we need data. To be able to show ourselves. To be able to make data-driven decisions. But also, to show the outcomes of what we do so that we can continue the work we do.”
Public Health 3.0
Public Health 3.0 focuses on five core recommendations for public health: embracing the role of chief health strategist, engaging in cross-sector collaboration, seeking PHAB accreditation, gathering timely, relevant, actionable data, and exploring innovative funding.
Standardized terminology is a tool that can help public health workers accomplish all five of these goals:
- Embracing the role of chief health strategist: standardized terminology provides you with proof of outcomes, trend data, and the ability to evaluate your community and your interventions to make strategic decisions
- Engaging in cross-sector collaboration: standardized terminology is the linchpin of data sharing; the ability to share data is crucial when collaborating with community partners.
- Seeking PHAB accreditation: standardized terminology helps you measure the impact of your work with populations and evaluate health indicators
- Gathering timely, relevant, actionable data: standardized terminology gives public health workers the ability to view extract data in a meaningful way, as needed, so that it can be immediately leveraged for planning and strategy.
- Exploring innovative funding: standardized terminology helps you leverage your resources efficiently and also gives you a voice to communicate with legislators, policymakers, and funders because you can prove your community needs and prove your work and outcomes
Standardized terminology is an essential tool for the forward-focused public health worker. It allows you to collect powerful data that is timely, relevant, and actionable and gives you a voice. Standardized terminology empowers you to participate in cross-sector collaboration as well as perform the role of community health strategist, making effective decisions for your community’s health. It also helps you understand how to efficiently and effectively allocate your resources.
Learn more about standardized terminology for specific public health priorities:
Read more about standardized terminology for addressing the opioid epidemic, standardized terminology and ACEs, standardized terminology and addressing health equity, or standardized terminology and social determinants of health (SDOH).
Learn more about how to evaluate whether a standardized terminology is good:
Read our blog on what criteria a standardized terminology should meet.
See standardized terminology in action:
Our electronic health record (EHR), Nightingale Notes is built on the Omaha System standardized terminology. Contact us if you’d like an invitation to one of our upcoming demos.