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The big picture: SNOMED and other code sets

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SNOMED CT is a code set that is considered the gold standard for recording clinical data at the point of care. While other health code sets could be used for this purpose, SNOMED CT enables the collection, sharing and analysis of a richer set of clinical data. SNOMED CT can be successfully implemented with other code sets that serve different purposes.

What is a health code set?

A health code set is a list of codes that can be read and interpreted by computers. Code sets are useful for standardised record keeping and reporting.

A code set can be a simple list of codes without terms or links between codes.

SNOMED CT is a complex code set because it contains:

  • codes
  • terms
  • links between codes (the links make it a ‘terminology’).

The links create meaning and enable computers to automatically interpret data entered by health professionals.

Very few health code sets are structured like SNOMED CT with codes, terms and links.

How code sets are used

Clinical software in Australia uses many code sets. Each code set serves a different purpose, including:

  • recording clinical data at the point of care – this is what SNOMED CT has been designed for
  • statistical reporting and analysis
  • calculating Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) rebates.

Most clinical software systems need to work with more than 1 code set.

In action

Multiple code sets apply to medicines in Australia. There is a code issued when a medicine is registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the PBS (if applicable), and the Australian Medicines Terminology (AMT) – the subset of SNOMED CT-AU that supports electronic medication management.

Common health code sets

A diagram showing common health code sets
This diagram shows code sets used in Australia and the health domains they cover.
SNOMED CT-AU is highlighted in blue. It covers many health domains but it doesn’t cover everything.


We are encouraging health organisations and software vendors to use SNOMED CT to record clinical information at the point of care because it was designed to suit that purpose. It also enables sharing of data between systems (interoperability) along with many other benefits.

Using SNOMED CT with other code sets

If you’re using other code sets and you’re considering using SNOMED CT, you can consider:

  • mapping from your code set to SNOMED CT and maintaining the map on an ongoing basis
  • using a map to transition from your current code set to SNOMED CT.

If you’re developing software, contact us so we can advise you on how to integrate SNOMED CT.

Considering implementing

Healthcare providers and software vendors: please get in touch so we can advise on the best approach.

Call 1300 901 001
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