This video will introduce you to the basics of searching SNOMED CT within Snow Owl. We’ll cover the most commonly used search features, like the Quick Search and the Filter Search using lots of examples. We’ll also discuss using search profiles to influence the ranking of the matching SNOMED CT concepts.

This is the first video of a three-part series about searching. You can find the other videos of this series at:

Once you’ve seen the video, you can find additional documentation at:

You might also be interested in our videos about browsing the SNOMED terminology and examining its concepts:



In this video I will show the basics of doing searches with Snow Owl and introduce you to the way search results are ranked based on the search profile.

There are three ways of doing searches with Snow Owl. The first one is the quick search which you can access through this text field here just simply by clicking in it or with the shortcut Ctrl-4 on Windows or CMD-4 on Mac. So wherever you are in the user interface this shortcut will always bring up the quick search.

The second way of doing search is the concept filter search. So each of the concept views has a field for doing filter searches which is here so this is for doing searches within SNOMED CT, this is for doing searches within ATC, this one for ICD-10 so it will filter these terminologies and display the results in the concept views.

The third one which we will talk about in the next video is the global search dialogue (or advanced search) that comes up
when you click this field and you can see it’s a little bit more complicated and this is why we’ll save it for later.

Okay, let’s start with the quick search. It’s fairly similar to what you know from doing a Google search. You just type in a term or a few characters and the results will come up as soon as you type. You can also use abbreviations, incomplete terms or misspellings and still get meaningful results. So let me type something. Let’s look for Diabetes and you see whenever I type in a new character my search results will change and the more characters I type in, the smaller my search results will get. Let’s stick with “dia” for now.

You see that the search results are displayed in different sections so there’s a section with two results which is called “previous choices.” This means that I was looking for Diabetes before and I picked some concepts from this list and so this is why they are displayed on top of the list. So because we assumed that choices that you made before you might want to look for these terms again.

In the next section are bookmarks that have “dia” and if you see down here there’s the bookmark view, these are all my bookmarks and there are actually two that have “dia” in it and this is why they are displayed up here as well but of course not the other bookmarks. By the way if there’s nothing in the field here, you just add this it will display your bookmarks. Let’s go back.

The next sections are the different terminologies so for “dia” within SNOMED CT Snow Owl found 2.779 results, within ICD-10 105 results, ICD-10 Australian modification 392 results. Let’s get a little bit more specific. You see it already shows Diabetes here in grey font there’s an autocomplete function and it works by simply clicking the tab key so if I do this and now it gives me the option of doing Diabetes mellitus but let’s look at the results now you see for SNOMED CT now we have only 299 results so we narrowed the search and if I do the next one it’s even less. The search does not only show you exact matches what you see here is all exact matches, they’re in normal font but it also considers approximate results, they will be shown in grey font for instance, if I type in “lower back pain” there is no exact match for “lower back pain” and therefore it shows you everything that has back, back pain, lower and here it says “displaying 20 approximate matches press Ctrl-4 for more” and if I do this, it will give me more search results. As you see, there’s a lot of pain, back, lower.

If you have a term that doesn’t have a lot of exact matches, it will show the approximate results as well. If I type in for instance “Lipodystrophy” you see this is normal font and here this one is already in grey because it’s an approximate match and if I hit Ctrl-4 again, I have more approximate matches displayed. It also works with misspellings. Let me misspell lipodystrophy: I will start with “Lypodistrphy” you see even though I mispelled it, and here I missed a character completely it still finds the term Lipodystrophy.

Another nice feature is that the quick search also works if you only type a few characters of each search term. If I want to find for instance
“standing systolic blood pressure”. I can just type the first two characters like “st sy bl pr” and here it comes up and I’ve picked this before this is why it gives it to me as previous choice or as a SNOMED CT concept. It also works if you use a different combination so you can start with “bl pr st sy” and it will also come up.

Once you found your concept and you want to open the editor you just go on the concept and click it and it will show up in the editor. If you have several options, like let’s do “dia” again, autocomplete you just go down with your arrow keys or with your mouse and then you pick, just click so it’s very easy to open.

I would llike to say a few words about the way the search results are sorted. When we designed Snow Owl we wanted to make sure that the concepts that are the most relevant to the users will be displayed on top of the list for this reason as you’ve seen with Diabetes, we have the previous choices and the bookmarks first but also the other results are sorted using some tricks. We use the global usage frequency. This means that terms are used more often in practice will have a higher ranking. However, exact matches usually take precedence over frequently used concepts this is why you’ll see exact matches here. The global usage frequency is part of the search tool. So more frequent terms will come higher up in the list.

It’s also based on your search profile and I want to show you what this is about. You can access the search profile by going to File > Preferences > Snow Owl, and then there’s something called “Search profile.” Let me open this for you. Here’s the search profile. That’s the default profile. There you can see where the active profile is and this can be changed. I will show you soon. So the search profile: On the left side, you see there are groups of concepts, here are your top-level concepts that you already know from the previous video. You can also add reference sets to your search profile. Here its the non-human reference set. There is an ICD-10 reference set. Modules, national extensions can be added as well. So it actually can get quite complicated but I just want to give you a brief introduction to the search profile.

On the right side you see the “My interest” column and there are traffic lights that are all set to “average.” This means that all the groups here are ranked equally so there’s nothing that is preferred and then there’s the option to change this and there are actually some built-in reference sets, I want to show you what it looks like when it’s changed.

Let’s take the first one “Cardiology” so you see now the traffic lights actually have different colours, there’s green, yellow and there’s red so there are some concepts that are excluded so in this part non-human reference set members were excluded completely from the search results. Iif you’re a clinician or a cardiologist, it makes sense to suppress all veterinarian concepts and increase the ranking of the most relevant terms and for cardiologists it would be terms of the cardiology reference set, and this is why this is “above average” and you see it has a green light. So it’s quite simple to understand.

There are different search profiles for medical specialties that already come with Snow Owl: There’s neurology, mental health, hematology, oncology and so on. If you are a clinician, I would recommend just using this one “clinician general” let’s click it. It’s actually a little bit bigger, you see because some reference sets were added to this one because it comprises a lot of different terms.

It’s also quite easy to create your own search profile. All you do is you just go to > New and you type in a name. let’s use “Test” right now. I would recommend maybe starting out with the default search profile so you always have to pick an initial search profile that you change. If I hit OK, it will give me the default search profile. Now you can add reference set members, it gives you the default search profile. You can add reference set members and then you can change the ranking of the different groups. So if I want to exclude the veterinarian term, I go here and then you can just open the drop-down menu and exclude concepts. Once you do that you will see that the light comes on, the red light comes on so now the concepts are excluded. So if I want to have clinical findings displayed higher up on the list and then you set it to above average and then the green light comes on.  You see now this isn’t saved yet you can see the little asterisk here and if I hit OK, then it will save and add this profile and actually update my search preferences to this. So just change these, hit OK and then you have your customized search profile but I will go to cancel now.

So much about the quick search and setting your own search profile and now a few more words about the filter search within the concept navigators. It’s fairly similar to the quick search. It starts showing results after three characters, so not one but not three. Let’s type “lip” for lipodystrophy and you see the trees is already filtered and it shows of course a lot of results so I should probably be more specific. So you have search results here and they’re actually the same as in the quick search. However, they are displayed within the tree so you can see where your concept is actually located, what the parent concept is. You can see if it’s a more general concept which is in this area or if it’s a more precise term like this one here and if you don’t like it, you can display it as well as a flat list.

There is a toggle button here. You can toggle in between but the search results are the same and if you want to open an editor you just go to this one and double-click it to open the editor. So it will not display the entire hierarchy anymore – whenever there’s a term here – it will filter the tree based on the search term you have here.

You might be wondering why it shows “Whipple’s disease” and how this is related to my search term. What you will see here is always the preferred term. However, Snow Owl searches consider every description associated with a concept so if we open “Whipple’s disease” in the editor, you can see that a synonym is “Intestinal lipodystrophy” and this is why it showed up in the research results. It was actually originally called intestinal lipodystrophy before Whipple’s disease was introduced in the medical books.

So much about the basics of searches with Snow Owl and in the next video we will talk about the flashlight button here and the global search dialogue. Thank you.