Responding to a global pandemic: A timeline of COVID-19 terminology

As vaccines for COVID-19 become more readily available, the possibility of getting back to life before the pandemic seems closer every day. That said, it’s still been over a year since the virus first appeared, requiring a slew of new terms and codes to describe not only the disease itself, but also adjacent tests, vaccines, and comorbidities. The following infographic shows how the industry and IMO responded to the clinical terminology needs of the past year.
COVID-19 Timeline Header

For most of us, March 2021 marked one year since daily life was uprooted by COVID-19’s arrival in the United States. However, here at IMO our work to help manage the pandemic started back when the virus was first identified in late 2019 – before the impacts of the new coronavirus were felt nationwide.

As we monitored the global spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, our teams kicked into high gear. Of chief importance? Ensuring that clinicians had the most accurate clinical terminology – like COVID-19 instead of flu-like symptoms – for use when documenting care.

And time was of the essence. Standardized code systems like ICD-10-CM and SNOMED CT® typically update annually, meaning it would likely take time for their COVID-19 terms to be released and become effective. But because of the nature of the work we do, IMO could respond with heightened speed and specificity. Here’s a look at how IMO’s team of expert clinical terminologists, coding specialists, and medical informaticists have been working vigilantly to support the most accurate clinical documentation for the COVID-19 pandemic.

To learn about IMO’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit

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