Enabling international adoption of LOINC through translation

Daniel J. Vreeman, Maria Teresa Chiaravalloti, John Hook, Clement J. McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Interoperable health information exchange depends on adoption of terminology standards, but international use of such standards can be challenging because of language differences between local concept names and the standard terminology. To address this important barrier, we describe the evolution of an efficient process for constructing translations of LOINC terms names, the foreign language functions in RELMA, and the current state of translations in LOINC. We also present the development of the Italian translation to illustrate how translation is enabling adoption in international contexts. We built a tool that finds the unique list of LOINC Parts that make up a given set of LOINC terms. This list enables translation of smaller pieces like the core component " hepatitis c virus" separately from all the suffixes that could appear with it, such " Ab.IgG" , " DNA" , and " RNA" We built another tool that generates a translation of a full LOINC name from all of these atomic pieces. As of version 2.36 (June 2011), LOINC terms have been translated into nine languages from 15 linguistic variants other than its native English. The five largest linguistic variants have all used the Part-based translation mechanism. However, even with efficient tools and processes, translation of standard terminology is a complex undertaking. Two of the prominent linguistic challenges that translators have faced include: the approach to handling acronyms and abbreviations, and the differences in linguistic syntax (e.g. word order) between languages. LOINC's open and customizable approach has enabled many different groups to create translations that met their needs and matched their resources. Distributing the standard and its many language translations at no cost worldwide accelerates LOINC adoption globally, and is an important enabler of interoperable health information exchange.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-673
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of biomedical informatics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Clinical laboratory information systems/standards
  • Computerized/standards
  • Medical records systems
  • Multilingualism
  • Translating
  • Vocabulary, controlled

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics

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