Will Semantic Web Technologies Work for the Development of ICD-11?

The World Health Organization is beginning to use Semantic Web technologies in the development of the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). Health officials use ICD in all United Nations member countries to compile basic health statistics, to monitor health-related spending, and to inform policy makers. While previous revisions of ICD encoded minimal information about a disease, and were mainly published as books and tabulation lists, the creators of ICD-11 envision that it will become a multi-purpose and coherent classification ready for electronic health records. Most important, they plan to have ICD-11 applied for a much broader variety of uses than previous revisions. The new requirements entail significant changes in the way we represent disease information, as well as in the technologies and processes that we use to acquire the new content. In this paper, we describe the previous processes and technologies used for developing ICD. We then describe the requirements for the new development process and present the Semantic Web technologies that we use for ICD-11. We outline the experiences of the domain experts using the software system that we implemented using Semantic Web technologies. We then discuss the benefits and challenges in following this approach and conclude with lessons learned from this experience.