Diagnostic information is vital for supporting good health and care outcomes. Standardisation in pathology will help to ensure that accurate and comparable information about test results is accessible for those who need it. This standardisation is one of the top seven priorities of the NHS England interoperability programme.
This year we formed a new NHS Digital Pathology Standards Governance Board to support the standardising of the coding of pathology test requests and results. The role of the board is to ensure we have a high quality single list of tests for pathology (known as a unified test list) that contain SNOMED CT codes, which is the clinical terminology that allows medical information to be transferred between different systems in an accurate way.
We are now launching a new project on pathology to gather feedback on the feasibility of implementing a standards-based pathology messaging system that can command the confidence of clinicians and other users of pathology information.
The standards will be based on the clinical terminology, SNOMED CT, to define test requests and results, and machine readable standards for units of measure. These would all be shared between systems digitally using FHIR (fast healthcare interoperability resources) messaging. The new pathology project will inform how these standards can be used to replace existing pathology messaging systems for primary care. In the longer-term this work will also inform how standards in pathology are implemented across all areas of health and care.