Wonca International Classification Committee (WICC) turns 40

February, 2012

WONCA's longest serving committee, WICC has been instrumental in the effort to move us globally towards the adoption of a classification system that is practical and relevant to primary care, through the development of ICPC and ICPC-2. More about ICPC on page 31. The editor apologises for the acronym usage. Those who require more information are referred to WICC website or their local WICC member.

In this issue of Wonca News, we celebrate the 40th birthday of the Wonca International Classification Committee (WICC).

Prof Mike Klinkman, current convenor of WICC

Under the leadership of Bob Westbury, Jack Froom, Charles Bridges-Webb, Niels Bentzen, and now Mike Klinkman; WICC has a tremendous record of accomplishment during its 40 years of existence: ICHPPC -1, ICHPPC-2, the Glossary of Family Practice, IC- Process- PC, ICPC-1, the COOP-WONCA charts, ICPC- 2, the DUSOI-WONCA severity scale, the Dictionary of General/Family Practice, and ICPC-2-e. Members of WICC have developed many health information technology applications that have put its classification tools to work to serve the needs of family doctors and their patients worldwide, and have developed important concepts such as quaternary prevention.


Over the past four years, WICC has been transforming itself to better represent the needs of family doctors and their patients in a new era. Members approved its formal mission statement in 2010:

The mission of the Wonca International Classification Committee (WICC) is to develop and maintain classifications that accommodate the complete domain of family/ general practice, and to ensure that these classifications are interoperable to the highest degree possible with standard international health care terminologies and classifications, in order to contribute to equitable quality health care worldwide.

This mission statement has led to the group’s agreement upon the following primary goals:

  • To achieve widespread international use of ICPC
  • To maintain and revise ICPC to accommodate expanded health care knowledge
  • To develop productive working relationships with other international standards development organizations
  • To support the work of WICC and Wonca through licensing of ICPC
  • To create and disseminate additional classification tools as needed to capture and codify the complete domain of family/general practice

WICC now

WICC is still organized as an “expert volunteer” committee, led by an elected Chair (since 2007, Mike Klinkman from the USA) and Deputy Chair (Anders Grimsmo, from Norway) and three elected Executive members (currently Nick Booth from the UK, Helena Britt from Australia, and François Mennerat from France). WICC has at present approximately 48 full and associate members. Observers are permitted and encouraged at meetings; between 5 and 10 have been present at each of the last three WICC annual meetings. We try to reach out to find and encourage individuals who are interested in the work of the committee.

The work of the committee has become more complicated over the years. We more clearly understand the need to collaborate with other organizations that develop and disseminate health care classification and terminology standards, and we have created working groups to lead those efforts. Active working groups include a WHO liaison group, the General/Family Practice Special Interest Group within IHTSDO, and internal groups such as process classification, ICPC-2 maintenance and update, communications, and translations. Each working group is responsible for basic work, all coordinated by the executive group. Full Committee meetings are used for exchanging information, making core decisions, and establishing and maintaining consensus.

WICC is now following a strategic plan that aims to maintain close relationships with key international classification organizations (IHTSDO, WHO, ISO/CEN) while working to revise ICPC to better capture the full clinical domain of general/family practice. This revised version of ICPC, “ICPC-3”, is the primary item on our work plan, but its target completion date is largely dependent on finding the resources necessary to fund the intensive revision work.

WICC met in Barcelona in October 2011

At its last meeting in Barcelona, members approved an ambitious work plan for 2011-2012. Highlights include:

  • Revision of the ICPC process codes for use with ICPC-2
  • Use of a Web-based classification management tool to facilitate revision and updates to ICPC
  • Collaboration with the WHO classification unit on ICD-11 development, and harmonization with ICPC-2
  • Continued work with IHTSDO to develop a primary care reference set for SNOMED-CT, and a SNOMED-ICPC-2 map, to enable use of ICPC to organize and retrieve SNOMED-coded data in electronic health records
  • Exploration of a collaboration with ACG International on use of ICPC for case-mix adjustment in primary care
  • Developing a collaborative Website to organize the Committee’s work and create a public forum for discussion, dissemination, and collaboration on classification and health information technology in primary care
  • Further efforts toward a business plan to support ICPC-3 development

We hope to send brief updates on our progress on this work plan from time to time over the next year: we will begin by highlighting one accomplishment by WICC members.

Jean-Karl Soler, of Malta (left) and Kees van Boven, of The Netherlands, facilitate discussion at the WICC meeting in Barcelona

New WICC website: primary health care classification consortium

In this 40th anniversary year, we are especially proud to be able to launch the new WICC web site, the initiative of a group of WICC members led by Marc Jamoulle of Belgium, Eric Falcoe of Denmark Sebastian Juncosa of Spain and Gustavo Gusso of Brazil. It will serve as the primary communication tool for WICC members, and will also offer a public forum. We chose the name "Primary Health Care Classification Consortium" to support Wonca while at the same time reaching out to bring together other groups or individuals from around theworld. This site provides access to much of the work published by the committee since its creation in 1972, recent committee minutes, and other classification-related materials. Please add this URL to your bookmarks, make a link to it, tweet it, distribute it to your students, and use it.

The URL is: http://www.ph3c.org/

We hope it will become the place to disseminate information about Wonca’s work in this area and to share lessons learned through research and field trials worldwide. We welcome your comments and advice and hope you will enjoy our efforts to share what we are collectively learning.

Mike Klinkman (USA)