Vocabulary problems

VocabularyIn my job, vocabulary is an important issue. The meaning of certain words can lead to problems. Some people want to say something and the others understand something else. Even trivial conversations between colleagues could result in a big issue and in every person defending his or her position and ignoring the others possibilities. In one course that I've followed some time ago, they called this phenomenon "The Curse of Knowledge". People have everything crystal clear in their head, but they are unable to explain what is the meaning of their words. People think that everybody has the power to read their mind, Men and Women alike. And they end up being angry with you because you can't understand them. You should understand them. Very funny but sometimes difficult to staycalm in that situation.

HL7 has spend a lot of time on that issue. Up front the definition of the word interoperability was a big problem. The question is that there are three kinds of interoperability (Syntactic interoperability, Semantic interoperability, Cross-domain interoperability). And not everybody talks of the same kind of interoperability when they create or modify a system.

There are many specialized vocabularies in the health field. That's something that helps people and systems understand each other. Normally the information is linked to a code and a description. This information is a standard and everybody should respect the meaning, nothing should change without the appropriate permission so everyone can understand what the other people are trying to communicate.

Some of the medical standards vocabularies are :

  • SNOMED Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT)
  • Logical Observation Identifiers, Names and Codes (LOINC)
  • Current Procedural Terminology (CPT-4)
  • Controlled Vocabularies for Nursing

But, things are not so easy. You have to be trained on how to use that vocabulariy and sometimes that's just not good enough.

Bottom line, vocabulary is important to exchange information between systems and people. You cannot ignore it.

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