SnoMed and RxNorm

Why would an EMR company not want to use these databases (or at least ones like them)?

I’ve recenly come accross SnoMed and RxNorm. I honestly don’t know too much about them, but my impression is that at a minimum these 2 databases list all the ICD9 codes and standardize the listing of Rx’s using the NDC number. Lists like these would have made my life so much easier. When I first implemented an EMR I really didn’t know what I was doing at all. I was learning the medical side as quickly as I could so I would know how to configure the software. I guess I could have sat back and said I’d be happy to just install the server, install the software and let the doctors deal with the medical side of it. However, if I did that I think that we wouldn’t be anywhere near an EMR implementation. So, I jumped in head first and tried to learn what needed to be uploaded to our new EMR system. I found myself having to upload all the ICD9 codes and find a way to add all the medications we wanted to prescribe into the EMR system. Anyone that has looked at these lists knows how much fun this was. Having access to some databases like SnoMed and RxNorm would have made my life so much easier. Even more important is that an EMR vendor should have this standard.

Ok, don’t start flaming this thread(although maybe I should encourage comments since this is a subject I don’t know that well), but there are some challenges for EMR companies wanting to implement it. I’m sure if you list every drug every created then I’m going to start complaining about that too. Not to mention every ICD9 code. At least you have to plan a way for me to sort through the lengthy list. Also, I don’t think it’s just a flip that is switched to turn this type of integration on or off. I also will give those older EMR companies a little slack since it’s going to be a definite challenge integrating these databases if you haven’t been using them in the past. However, it’s not impossible.

I think the biggest reason to implement some type of database like SnoMed and RxNorm is because of the potential integrations that can be done in the future. RHIO is a hot topic, but if we don’t all speak the same language as far as ICD9 codes and drug names then it will be difficult to integrate. The whole CCR initiative will be so much better if we have a standard language that we all use.

Ok, so I apologize for my primitive understanding on the topic, but I figured I had to start somewhere. More information to come.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.