Healthcare organisations often use different software and different words, or "terminologies", to record health information: what one doctor records in their system as a "chest infection", for example, might be recorded as "upper-respiratory infection" in another, so the two systems might not be able to match the information up.
This is often resolved by using standard clinical terminologies such as "SNOMED CT", which match up common variations to help software talk to each other.
But they can be challenging for software developers to adopt, meaning systems don't always get the latest terminology updates – particularly problematic when new terms like COVID-19 are added to the list.
To help solve this challenge CSIRO developed Ontoserver, which makes it easier for software to use SNOMED-CT and other "clinical dictionary"-like tools, enabling better decision support and reporting for healthcare workers.
As the winners of a globally competitive NHS Digital tender, DXC and CSIRO will now make Ontoserver available to licence for organisations delivering healthcare in the UK and Ireland.
Dr David Hansen, CEO of CSIRO's Australian e-Health Research Centre, said the new agreement demonstrates the benefits of science collaborating with industry to address healthcare challenges.
"Ontoserver already forms the foundation of Australia's national clinical terminology platform, enabling integrated healthcare and helping healthcare professionals respond to patients' needs appropriately," Dr Hansen said.
"This agreement to take our home-grown innovation across to the other side of the world really shows the great work being done in digital health in Australia.
"A shared health language is fundamental to innovation in healthcare around the world. Australian companies already using Ontoserver will find another market providing their local terminology using familiar software, while improvements to the software through this partnership will also be available for use in Australia."
The new collaboration between CSIRO and DXC in the UK combines DXC’s experience delivering business critical solutions for the NHS with the capability of Ontoserver, providing an end-to-end fully managed service to customers.
Daryll Goodall, DXC's Director of Healthcare & Life Sciences in Australia, said DXC is proud to be partnering with Australia's national science agency to deliver clinical terminology services to the NHS.
"The adoption of international health standards such as HL7 FHIR, and terminology sets such as SNOMED CT, are central to DXC's interoperability solutions and the value they drive to unlock greater insights in health data," Mr Goodall said.
Nicholas Oughtibridge, Principle Data Architect from NHS Digital said: "Recording data once and then reconciling, comparing and sharing the data safely has been a long-standing challenge across the NHS.
"Ontoserver has the potential to transform the way in which data is captured, shared and analysed across health and care. The capabilities that Ontoserver delivers are key to enabling data from disparate systems to be safely and meaningfully exchanged between care providers, researchers and service planners.
"NHS data is already a valuable tool in fighting disease and finding new courses of treatment, but having access to more localised data, more quickly will have a real boost for researchers."
Ontoserver was developed at the Australian e-Health Research Centre in Brisbane, CSIRO's national digital health program and a joint venture with the Queensland Government.
Ontoserver has successfully underpinned the Australian Government's National Clinical Terminology Service since 2016. It enables more than 1400 users and 70 licence holders in Australia to implement nationally endorsed code systems, allowing information such as a patients' allergies or medicines to be seamlessly exchanged between systems.
Ontoserver is already licenced internationally, including to organisations in New Zealand, the United States, Germany, Switzerland, England and Wales.