WHO Family of International Classifications

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In order to have a common benchmark on which to provide a means of common communication and evaluate the performance of different medical providers, consumers and policy makers, it is important to have a standardized classification scheme on an international level. The World Health Organization necessitates the availability of one such common international benchmark that can help in bringing people from various countries on a common platform with regard to building a framework of medical regulations governing medical care providers and receivers.

Classifications that have been endorsed on an international level have been developed as an aid to assist interpretation, evaluation, retrieval and storing data regarded to various aspects of medical care. These classifications, furthermore, help in comparing information within different groups of people over a period of time. They also help in comparing medical data among people of different ethnicities and nationalities at any given point of time. Since populations of different nations undergo different health conditions at the same point of time, it is beneficial from the point of view of medical providers to have a consensus on how different people react physically to different conditions at the same time. The objective of the World Health Organization is to make a compilation of data that is consistent and reliable on both national and international levels.

The World Health Organization has taken up the Herculean task of providing a common ground for classification, called as WHO Family of Classifications and better known as WHO-FIC, so as to create an appropriate database with clearly classified data regarding a whole range of subjects. The classification is aimed at securing a classification that can be applicable on a world level. The settings in the classification guide have been created considering a varied range of settings regarding the field of health.

The WHO Family of International Classifications has been formulated based on certain well set criteria. The classification has been put into writing and briefs on the principles taken into consideration for the classification. For people who want to add their content or classification to the existing material, a special protocol has been provided. The classification, therefore, is an ever increasing and growing database that encourages people to add further data. The protocols ensure that only accurate data is entered. Furthermore, every piece of information that is entered is thoroughly scrutinized so as to establish its precision.

Classification types
The WHO Family of Classification consists of different types of classifications in order to make the manual user friendly and be able to encompass different data more efficiently. The manual comprises of numerous chapters, with each chapter dedicated to one particular type of classification. Below given are the major types of classification categories in this manual.

Classification by reference
Classification based on reference takes into account the basic health parameters. The parameters for this kind of classification have been endorsed by various international health related bodies, thus making it apt for use internationally. The three major agencies or bodies that have approved the classification are the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), International Classification of Health Interventions and International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. Being endorsed by the three basic organizations lends credibility and reliability on the Family of Classification.

Derived Classifications
Classifications are not only based on reference but are derived from various sources as well. Derived classifications are an outcome of reference classification. The formulation of this type of classification is different from formulating reference classifications because further analysis and interpretation goes into it. In addition to providing basic details regarding the classified data, additional information is also provided to enrich the classification. The details provided in this type of classification are more elucidated and contain more data when compared to the first type of classification. The information in the reference classification is taken, analyzed more thoroughly, rearranged or reorganized in some cases and summarized from more than a single reference classification source.

In the Family of Classification, classifications that are derived are the ICD-10 for Mental and Behavioral Disorders Clinic Descriptions and Diagnostic Guidelines, International Classification of Diseases for Oncology, edition-3 and the ICD-10 for Mental and Behavioral Disorders Diagnostic Criteria for Research. The two other such classifications are Application of the International Classification of Diseases to Dentistry and Stomatology, edition 3 and Application of International Classification of Diseases to Neurology.

Clinical terminology and classifications
The superficial basis of classification in the WHO Family of Classifications is factors such as death, disability, health interventions, and functionality, disease and health conditions. These basic criteria provide a basis for making decisions and management under different situations. With regular use and upgrading of the database, one can have a clear perspective about health planning and management. For health authorities, this classification is of invaluable help. With every different perspective on health, a new classification is born, thus making the database huge and very clear. However, the continuous evolution and changing data makes it difficult for the concerned authorities to judge the accuracy of each entry. The data also needs to have a generous share of interoperability. ICT has made the process easier.

Majority of the classification is based on data that is obtained from public health services and medical care providers. The classification contains data from both inpatient and outpatient records. Therefore, with regard to enhanced precision, it is important that medical aid providers from all over the world ensure that the data is accurate before entering it into the Family of Classification. Standard terminology plays a very important role in ensuring the usability of the manual internationally. When medical providers from all over the world follow similar terminology and standards of treatment, then the Family of Classification tends to remain more precise and reliable. The World Health Organization needs to provide guidelines for use of common terminology on an international level. Only then can the classification meet its objectives.

This initiative by the World Health Organization is a much needed benchmark to classify, evaluate and communicate subjects regarding health. Doctors from one part of the world can easily discuss medical cases and policy makers can take better decisions regarding health care in their respective countries.