Wednesday, March 2, 2016

DICOM and SNOMED back in bed together

Summary: Users and commercial and open source DICOM developers can be reassured that they may continue to use the subset of SNOMED concepts in the DICOM standard in their products and software, globally and without a fee or individual license.

Long Version.

The news from IHTSDO and a summary of the relationship can be found at this IHTSDO DICOM Partnership page, including links to the text of the agreement and a press release.

DICOM has used SNOMED since the days of the SNOMED DICOM Microglossary in the mid-nineties. This was the work of Dean Bidgood, who was not only very actively involved in DICOM but also a member of the SNOMED Editorial Board. As SNOMED evolved over time, it became necessary to reach an agreement with the original producers, the College of American Pathologists. This allowed DICOM to continue to publish and use SNOMED codes in software and products without a fee, and in return DICOM continued to contribute imaging concepts to be added to SNOMED.

This has worked out really well so far, so it is reassuring that we now have a similar agreement in place with the new owners, IHTSDO.

The subset of SNOMED concepts that DICOM may use includes all concepts that are currently in the standard as of the 2016a release and that are active in the SNOMED 2016 INT release, as well as those in some upcoming Supplements and CPs. I have been going through and cleaning up any concepts that have been inactivated in SNOMED (due to errors, duplicates, ambiguities, etc.) and adding them to CP 1495 to replace them and mark them as retired. This is pretty tedious but with the XML DocBook source of the standard, a lot of the checking can be automated, so this process should converge pretty soon. Note that per both the original agreement with CAP and the new agreement with IHTSDO, there is recognition that products and software that use retired inactive codes may continue to do so if necessary.

A small subset of codes (for non-human applications) have been handed off by IHTSDO to the maintainers of the Veterinary Extension of SNOMED CT, and we have been reassured by those folks that it is OK for us to continue to use them too.

If anyone actually needs a tabulated list of all the concepts in the SNOMED DICOM subset in some more convenient form than the PDF that lists the concept identifiers, just let me know and I can send you some of my working files. I also have some XSLT style sheets that can be used to trawl the source for both coded tuples and codes in tables, so if you need to do that sort of thing, just let me know (I will add these to the source and rendering archive file in the next release of the DICOM standard).


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