The fundamental goal of standardization in informatics is to enable, to improve information exchange, to make information transparent among people and among systems. Two areas are to be distinguished: (1) standardizing the content: e.g. by code systems, nomenclatures, classifications, terminologies etc; (2) standardizing the systems, that includes structures (model standards) and processes (message standards) standards. In practice the most successful standards are the different code systems and the messaging standards. Standards have secondary advantages as well: They contribute to better quality, they enable producers, service providers having a larger market to supply: if your product works in more countries and if it can work together with a variety of different products (interoperability) then the market for such a product will be larger than when it does not comply to any standard. A variety of health informatics standards deal with additional aspects as e.g. security, quality, handling bio signals, interfacing devices, etc.

Agreements on informatics standards in public health is particularly challenging because of the diverse needs of the many groups who record and use health information, including care and cure providers (clinicians), payers, administrators, researchers, clients of the health system (patients) and of course the public health professionals. Most of the health coding systems and messaging standards currently in use have been designed as health administration and delivery systems data carriers and did not previously taken into account public health data modelling needs.  Public health’s interests are not uniformly regarded as consistent with the business needs of other organizations.

Official sources of health informatics standards are: (1) world level: ISO/TC 215  (2) EU level: CEN/TC 251 (CEN Technical Committee 251)  -  European standardization in this field.  Other important sources are: The International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation (IHTSDO), owning  and administering  the rights to SNOMED CT (Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine), Health Level Seven International (HL7) claiming to be a global authority on standards for interoperability of health information technology. World Health Organisation – Classifications,  owner of ICD, ICF, ICH

See more details in upcoming joint pages:

  • Standard Contents in Health Information Systems – Code Systems, Nomenclatures and Classifications 
    (SNOMED, ICD 10, LOINC, HL7 v3, etc)
  • Standards for Health Information Systems and Processes
    (HL7 v2.x, HISA, HIF, EHRC etc)
  • Various Additional Health Informatics Standards
    (HMN,  SSQS, PHDC (Personal health device communication) etc.


  1. TC 215 Health informatics:
  2. CEN/TC 251 Health Informatics:
  3. William A. Yasnoff, Patrick W. O’Carroll, Denise Koo, Robert W. Linkins, and Edwin M. Kilbourne. Public Health Informatics: Improving and Transforming Public Health in the Information Age. J Public Health Management Practice, 2000, 6(6), 67–75