Migrating from READ codes to SNOMED CT for better information in primary care

Representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Social Development and the Accident Compensation Corporation have formed a cross-agency group for migrating to the new SNOMED classification system.

News article

20 December 2017

SNOMED replaces the now-outdated READ code system used in New Zealand since the 1990s to capture information in medical records, injury claims and medical certificates.

SNOMED is the standard international system of clinical terminology used to record precise, structured and actionable information about a person’s health and disability status and the care and support they receive.

SNOMED will underpin a better understanding of the health and social sector and will eventually be used by thousands of providers.

This cross-agency initiative involves working together on a joined-up plan, and clearly communicating with the health and disability sector about expectations and timeframes for change.

The three agencies recognise the need to manage the transition to SNOMED in a gradual and systematic way. Agencies will adapt their own information systems to enable health providers to make the changeover. Agencies will also publish the standards and implementation guidance the sector needs.

The cross-agency group will meet quarterly to support progress, and align their own agency priorities and resources towards a coordinated effort for change over the next two years.

The Ministry of Health is the lead agency on behalf of the NZ Government.

A further update will be issued after the next executive meeting scheduled for February 2018.


As the new standard, SNOMED provides more detailed, actionable and useful information about health and disability status, impact on life, interventions and outcomes than was possible previously. SNOMED will enable new levels of care coordination and clinical decision support, enabling the value and high performance and smart system objectives of the New Zealand Health Strategy.

Health providers support the move to SNOMED for better information across all health and disability services, improving user experience and outcomes for all New Zealanders.

Benefits to general practice and allied health relate to data integration, identifying at risk individuals, System Level Measures and new models of care.