Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a threat to public health. To protect ourselves against AMR, we need to know how often and where these multi-resistant Microorganisms occur and if there are any trends to identify. The Netherlands medical microbiological laboratories (MMLs) exchange relevant data with the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM). RIVM systematically collects and analyses this data to gain insight into the spread of infections. The information outcome is presented to healthcare providers to help them prevent infections. To start prevention at an early stage, sharing information should be faster and better. This can be achieved if use of language is unambiguous, also referred to as Unity of Language.

Unity of Language AMR in the Netherlands

Unity of Language in antimicrobial resistance (Eenheid van Taal in antibioticaresistentie in Dutch) concerns substantive and technical standards and structures for digital data exchange to ensure that all information/data has the same meaning for all stakeholders (healthcare providers, patients, researchers and public health administrators).  That is why the Dutch Society for Medical Microbiology (NVMM), the Dutch competence centre for electronic exchange of health and care information (Nictiz) and RIVM, together with a number of MMLs, have developed a standardised Lab codeset: the Dutch Labcodeset.

This Dutch Labcodeset is a subset based on the international coding systems Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC) and Systematic Nomenclature of Medicine – Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT). The Dutch Labcodeset contains laboratory codes for body material, antibiotics, laboratory tests and microorganisms. By applying Unity of Language in labcodes, lab requests and results can be exchanged unambiguously between MMLs, healthcare providers, researchers and epidemiologists of public health institutions in the Netherlands. The laboratory code set was used for the first time for the exchange of information on antimicrobial resistance. Together with a standard for the exchange of digital health information (HL7), this method for real-time data delivery has increased the quality, simplicity and flexibility of AMR surveillance.

When laboratories are connected to Unity of Language for AMR, there are more opportunities for broader use of the Dutch Labcodeset and digital data exchange in healthcare, as among MMLs and general practitioners, hospitals and other healthcare providers. It provides the possibility to easily exchange laboratory diagnostics requests and reports, through secure channels in the Netherlands.

Unity of Language AMR international

AMR is a global health problem. WHO has declared that AMR is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity. Without effective antimicrobials, the success of modern medicine in treating infections, including during major surgery and cancer chemotherapy, would be at increased risk*. Resistant microorganisms are not bound by country borders; it requires a united multisectoral approach. International cooperation and exchange of data, to provide insight into the spread, is crucial to contain this spread.

The importance of Unity of Language in this exchange is evident; by using international coding systems and exchange standards for secure data delivery, the information can be analysed quickly and unambiguously.

For participants of the GLASS-AMR from the World Health Organization (WHO), Unity of Language simplifies the collection of data, and therefore data can be delivered almost realtime.

*Source WHO factsheet on antimicrobial resistance.