Toward harmonising WHO International Classifications: A nursing perspective

Tae Youn Kim, Amy Coenen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The WHO Family of International Classifications (FIC) provides a suite of health classifications to promote data exchange and comparisons worldwide. The International Classification of Functioning, Disabilities and Health (ICF) and the International Classification for Nursing Practice (ICNP) are part of WHO-FIC. This study was designed to examine to what extent the ICF and ICNP could be mapped to facilitate unambiguous communication across health settings and professionals. A total of 946 concepts from ICF were mapped to ICNP primitive concepts. Lexical matches generated by machine were examined to find false positive or additional semantic equivalence. Although the semantic mapping increased the number of exact and partial matches by 13%, only less than half of ICF concepts (46%) were able to be mapped to ICNP concepts. ICF concepts were more granular than ICNP concepts in the area of human functioning and body structures. Major challenges in mapping the two classifications resulted from differences in the terminology structure, concept representation and content specificity. A reference terminology model was useful to the mapping effort. The study findings support ongoing advancement in the area of harmonisation of healthcare terminologies. Applications that blend the use of ICF and ICNP concepts in practice should be further tested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-49
Number of pages15
JournalInformatics for Health and Social Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • health informatics
  • healthcare terminology
  • International Classification
  • terminology mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Health Information Management
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine(all)


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