Which taxonomies to use

I’ve been involved in a Slack conversation with American adopters of Open Referral and want to open the conversation here as the choice of taxonomies is crucial for interoperability between organisations and the move to the Open Referral Human Services Data Structure (HSDS) 2 encourages greater use of taxonomies for “attributes”.

The page Use of Taxonomies with Open Referral UK services data lists some open taxonomies, including Open Eligibility which is used in some cases in the USA. Comment there is that Open Eligibility is not specific enough so they’d like the 211 taxonomy to be open but it is not at present. An alternative is AIRS which is also not open.

Work in health on social prescribing standards for the UK has suggested adding taxonomy terms to SnomedCT, which is not open although I understand that there are unlikely to be objections to relevant terms being used openly if the copyright is quoted. I believe SnomedCT terms can be shared between people using it for the purposes of care or care-related activities in the UK, US, Canada and other countries.

Note that the LGA standard lists can be quite detailed but they can be “tagged” such that a service directory can say which of the terms it uses. For example, here’s an API call that gives the service types used by the “Bristol” directory: https://webservices.esd.org.uk/lists/services?tag=Bristol

On behalf of the UK SAVVI project my colleagues and I have looked at the Digital Terminology Server which supports taxonomies using the FHIR standard, particularly:

  • CodeSystem - a set of terms, attribute with simple values or objects with complex structures

  • ValueSet - a group of codes from one or more codesets (e.g. codes from several codesets, a branch of a codeset, a codeset excluding certain codes, odd codes from within a codeset

Subject to approval of the next phase of SAVVI work, the proposal is to put a front end on the Terminology Server that lets people construct ValueSets from one or more CodeSystems (i.e. their own and any other open taxonomies) so we can see what one-another are using and evolve a common agreed set of open taxonomy terms.

I suggest we see by the end of March 2022 if the SAVVI work happens and if that or something else needs to be made available to get greater consensus on taxonomies across the Open Referral community.

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