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Pathology Terminology

As part of a slowly evolving approach to healthcare terminology, Australia's National E-Health Transition Authority developed SNOMED reference sets for use in electronic exchange of pathology test information. It is unclear from NEHTA's published literature, how these references sets are to be reconciled with the LOINC based codes commonly used by Australian pathology labs, nor the specific AUSTPATH set promoted by Standards Australia. Moreover, the NEHTA reference sets only supply the SNOMED-CT IDs of the standardised concepts and so participating systems also require a full core distribution of SNOMED-CT in order to obtain the corresponding meaning of each code. On the other hand, by using SNOMED, participating systems could access the rich set of synonyms and relationships provided therein, as well as the additional terms used in many pathology labs to describe organisms, communicable disease variants, neoplasm variants, etc. as well as the specimen types and characteristics not covered by LOINC.

The first release of these NEHTA reference sets occurred in December 2009.

A parallel activity has been undertaken by the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) through its Pathology Information Terminology and Units Standardisation Project (PITUS).
The PITUS project has developed a number of terminology value sets and published them on the RCPA website at There is still yet no guidance on when, where or how these are to be used.
Furthermore, NEHTA republished these PITUS value sets in a different form without any documentation or rationale whatsoever.

Note: The NEHTAPATH reference sets have been developed to meet only some of the requirements for terminology use in pathology systems and communication in healthcare, including standardising test names and component result names; standardising the naming of test methods; standardising specimen types; standardising the body site from where specimens are obtained; providing codes for each of these names. They are insufficient to meet all the terminology needs. Deployment into systems is also seen by many as a major hurdle.