Best type for encoded values including "other" (implying free text)

Ian McNicoll Ian.McNicoll at
Wed Oct 3 15:39:16 EDT 2012

This was bounced for some reason - reposted.

--------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mads Hjorth <MALH at>
To: For openEHR clinical discussions <openehr-clinical at>
Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2012 19:17:13 +0000
Subject: RE: Best type for encoded values including "other" (implying free
Hi list,

It has been very interesting for me to follow your discussion about
modeling of health data. I do not have a much health-data-specific
experience to offer (yet), but I do recognize a few patterns from modeling
in many other domains.

Allow me to pitch in with an idea for solving the specific problem in this

Why not always allow free-text and ask the user to use her own words first,
then ask to pick from a set of restricted classes incl. the famous 'other'?

I understand there can be reasons that has to do with 'effective typing'.
It might be faster to pick from a list of codes, than to write a few words.
But I think a well-designed html-application would allow a user to click
the text field, type in a few letters, get suggestions from previously used
phrases, then tab on to dropdown next to, select from a list of available
classes and then move on.

Another argument against "free text first, then selection of class" could
be the unease of free text in registers and databases. But I would consider
the free text a very valuable piece of information and I don’t see any
reasons not to collect as many as possible. They don't cost much in terms
of either bandwidth or storage in modern it-systems.

What do you think about this idea?

Mads Hjorth
National Board of E-Health, Statens Serum Institut

T (direkte) 7221 6816 | E  mah at | W
Adresse:  Islands Brygge 67 | 2300 København S

Dr Ian McNicoll
office +44 (0)1536 414 994
fax +44 (0)1536 516317
mobile +44 (0)775 209 7859
skype ianmcnicoll
ian.mcnicoll at

Clinical Modelling Consultant, Ocean Informatics, UK
Director openEHR Foundation
Honorary Senior Research Associate, CHIME, UCL
SCIMP Working Group, NHS Scotland
BCS Primary Health Care
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the openEHR-clinical mailing list