Headlines: December 15th, 2003

The National Health Service has developed its first ever definitive dictionary of medicines and devices. The online service, to be known as the dm+d, has been a joint project by the NHS Information Authority and the Prescription Pricing Authority.The dictionary will be available for use across all sectors of health care delivery and will allow computer systems to exchange information about the specific medicines or devices used in the diagnosis or treatment of individual patients. It provides a unique code for each product and a text description. It is integrated with SNOMED Clinical Terms, the standard clinical terminology for health information IT systems.

The dm+d is due to be available to data suppliers for integration into clinical systems from spring 2004.Once that has happened it will be possible for doctors to identify all the medicines and devices used in a patient’s diagnosis and treatment whether in hospital, community or primary care. The new dictionary underpins the increased sharing of data across NHS and is seen as central to the service’s vision of improving patient safety, modernisation and improving efficiency in business processes.

Paul Frosdick, the Information Authority’s Principal Pharmacist, said the system was a huge step forward that would allow information sharing and enable effective decision support through the linking of data. Patient safety would be improved once medicines and devices were described in a consistent way, as this would reduce the margin for error when medicines were prescribed and dispensed.