(The cartoon can be yours, as a giant deluxe framed print, for just $350 from The New Yorker Store.)
Now the miracle has a name. Snorocket.
If I have your attention let's look at the rest of the blackboard.
You can't make Electronic Health Records fly around the Web if they don't interoperate. If an ulcer means one thing on one piece of software, something else on another, and you can't translate the two you're stuck.
The folks working on interoperability are called the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organization, or IHTSDO. (Sounds like what happens when you knock Homer Simpson on the head.) Technically they're based in Denmark. So far nine national groups (including one in the U.S.) are members.
Their tool for doing this is called the Systemized Nomenclature of Medicine-Clinical Terms, or SNOMED CT. Getting the rights to SNOMED was what got the group going, in 2006.
Many important medical nomenclatures, like HL7 and DICOM, as well as standards bodies like the ISO and X12, are supporting the SNOMED CT effort. It's incomplete, but SNOMED is now being used in 50 countries, the group says.
Translation or mapping is just the half of it. If it takes forever it's not really worthwhile. Here's where the miracle happens.
Snorocket is software, developed in Australia, that makes SNOMED translations run 10 times faster than before.
The release of Snorocket, which in technical terms is an Ontology Classification Engine, will not be a big headline in today's business press. (It actually happened last week.) It should be. It makes everything else possible.
One more point. Don't look for Snorocket at Snorocket.com. That turns out to be a Web design shop working on e-commerce and shopping carts. I can remember when that was cutting edge.