A University of Portsmouth professor has been given a lifetime achievement award in recognition of his efforts to help save lives and alleviate suffering worldwide.
Professor Martin Severs, Associate Clinical Dean in the University’s School of Health Sciences and Social Work, was given the award by the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation (IHTSDO) in Stockholm.
Professor Severs’ major contribution to healthcare was the vision and subsequent development of an international organisation to produce and maintain a common language for healthcare computers worldwide. Called SNOMED CT, its main objective is to improve healthcare by removing language barriers.
Colleagues who nominated him for the lifetime achievement award said he had devoted nearly a decade of “super-human efforts” to advancing the cause of international clinical terminology standardisation as a means for enhancing the health of the world’s citizens. They said his energy, perseverance and creativity overcame all obstacles in the complex inter-country negotiations required to establish the organisation globally.
Professor Severs established the IHTSDO in 2007 with seven countries and it has now grown to 19 countries using the platform to ensure seamless clinical care for patients.
He said: “SNOMED CT means GPs, hospitals, nurses and social workers can see the same information in the same language no matter what computing system they are using. You could say it will become the computer language of health.”
The platform is a computer readable terminology of health concepts, which means the terms doctors and nurses use for a patients’ illnesses can be coded and read by computers which store the patients’ electronic records. This enables health data to be shared not only between clinicians and patients but also between the computers they use.
Within the UK, the system works by acting as a reference terminology, or dictionary, for different medical records and populating messages between them and supporting decision support tools applied to them. An example of how it works abroad is if an English-speaking patient travels to Spain their health records are viewable over the platform by a Spanish-speaking doctor in Spanish.
Professor Severs said: “Increasingly doctors are collecting data electronically on their patients and in the past, if other healthcare workers needed to read a patient’s history, they would often not be able to view it because different computer systems contained different data standards.”
Professor Severs was the founding chairman of IHTSDO which runs SNOMED CT and spent five years on the organisation’s management board. He is now the clinical lead and a panel member for the Caldicott Independent Review of information governance in the health and social care system in England.
Upon receiving the award Professor Severs said: “I am proud and humble in equal amounts; proud that I have achieved something others value and humbled that I was not worthy of the degree of warmth and gratitude given to me.”