Ontologies In Health: Ready For Prime Time? IAO Versus OpenEHR

Thomas Beale | Woland's cat | September 3, 2012

A lot of ontology work has been going on for some years that comes loosely under the BFO and OBO activities, which stand to improve how computing in health is done. BFO is the Basic Formal Ontology, and OBO is the Open Biological and Biomedical Ontologies. Work from these efforts is currently being used to better structure the upper level of SNOMED CT, in cooperation with the IHTSDO, its owning organisation.

This week I had the opportunity to read a new paper by André Q Andrade, Maurício B Almeida and Stefan Schulz, entitled “Revisiting ontological foundations of the OpenEHR Entry Model” (PDF). This paper seeks to analyse the openEHR ‘clinical investigator ontology’ which Dr Sam Heard and I published in a MedInfo 2007 paper, using the Information Artefact Ontology (IAO) as the reference.

We need such a review, because openEHR archetypes are being created apace, and their classification and internal structure are not as disciplined as they need to be. This isn’t just an aesthetic concern: it may impact on computability.