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What is Health Information Exchange, and it’s importance with HL7

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    Posted in HL7

    Last Updated | June 12, 2023

    What Is Health Information Exchange and Why Is It Important With HL7

    HL7 Health Information Exchange Organizations

    HL7, or more precisely the Health Level 7 International organization, is a “not-for-profit, ANSI-accredited standards developing organization that offers a comprehensive framework and related standards for the exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information that supports clinical practice and the management, delivery, and evaluation of health services”.

    Before the advent of HL7, the Radiology information system (RIS), lab information system (LIS), hospital information system (HIS), and electronic medical record (EMR), had no way of communicating with each other seamlessly. Each system used to speak its own language. However, Health information exchanges, such as the HL7, facilitate a safe and reliable exchange of patient health data between healthcare organizations, doctors, insurance companies, and other organizations that are involved in a patient’s chain of care, while maintaining the meaning of the information being exchanged. These exchanges form the foundation for multi-stakeholder partnerships, where disparate organizations can collaborate on patient cases to improve healthcare outcomes and enhance patient care.

    There are several kinds of Health information exchanges that are possible with HL7 across the US, such as regional, statewide, nationwide, and vendor to vendor. However, regardless of the type, you can think of these organizations as unbiased data trustees that don’t provide care, but leverage cutting-edge technology to deliver clinically relevant, cross-institutional clinical information, improve efficiency, cost-effectiveness, quality, and safety of healthcare delivery, and lower the time and cost of providing clinical data to researchers.

    Why Is Health Information Exchange Important With HL7?

    Virtually anyone who has ever visited a healthcare provider has experienced the need for interoperability. Providers within a single healthcare organization may be able to share data and patient history through a shared EHR, but if the patient needs to visit a provider outside the scope of that EHR, they find themselves filling out medical history forms again. On the other hand, most providers still use fax machines as the means for information exchange within the healthcare industry and feel a deeper need for interoperability.

    HIEs play an important role in standardizing information and facilitating exchange between healthcare organizations, making it effortless to share Clinical results, Clinical information, clinical documentation such as transcription and care summary notes, ED notes, discharge summaries, referrals, consulting notes, Medication history, Immunizations, public health data, and Electronic prescribing and refill information. HIEs form a basic level of interoperability among electronic health records (EHRs) maintained by individual physicians and organizations. In fact, most EMR/EHR vendors have already incorporated HIE features and capabilities into their systems with the help of EHR/EMR integration services. Real-time access to patient data enhances the quality of care delivery, curtail hospital readmissions, compromised patient safety, or other unintended consequence, and improve the quality of care coordination.

    Standardized health information exchange with HL7 helps alleviate myriad errors prevalent in patient care, and improve quality care. For example, since all healthcare providers within a patient’s line of care can view their medication list through the HIE, it reduces medication errors and eliminates the need for redundant tests or procedures. HIEs eliminate the need for duplicate tests and unnecessary paperwork, allowing caregivers access to clinical notes that allow for more effective care and treatment.

    Healthcare exchange using HL7 also finds application in research, since it is a reliable source of cross-institutional clinical information. All healthcare information is shared synchronously using HL7 messages, potentially decreasing the time and cost of providing clinical information to researchers.

    Lastly, HIEs allow Public health agencies to conduct disease prevention activities with the help of data collected through public health screening and treatment services, as well as data that comes from labs, pharmacies, emergency medical services, local public health agencies, and healthcare providers. Since HIE organizations ensure robust and timely data collection, HIE using HL7 can serve to improve population health.

    We have already talked about the health information exchange and how it can help improve the quality of care, eliminate errors, and cross-check the information. However, the use of correct UX medical devices is equally important to ensure seamless information exchange. Also, these devices can be recommended by software vendors according to the system installed at the healthcare facility.

    Learn about the HL7 ORU message and how it shares medical data.


    Types of Health Information Exchange HL7

    1.      Directed Exchange

    Through the directed exchange, health care providers have a secure and timely way of sending alerts and sharing patient data, such as laboratory orders and results, patient referrals, or discharge summaries, with other providers. The data is securely encrypted and is only shared between providers who already know and trust each other. Providers can also communicate with each other through a secure messaging format, much like Email. This helps to support use cases such as referrals, care coordination, and transitions of care. For instance, a primary care provider can directly send patient information, such as a list of medications, diagnoses, and lab results to another provider when referring their patients. This information reduces duplication of tests, redundant collection of information from the patient, unnecessary visits, and medication errors. HL7 integration solutions facilitate directed exchange by providers.

    2.      Query-based Exchange

    Query-based exchange in a healthcare information exchange organization lets providers search for and find information on a patient from other providers. This is generally needed when a healthcare provider encounters a new patient or when the provider hopes to uncover some important information in previous patient records. This form of exchange is especially beneficial for delivering unplanned care. For instance, if an unconscious person comes into the ER, the physician can use this query-based exchange system to access critical pieces of data about that patient, such as medications, recent radiology images, list of allergens, health complications, contraindications, and so on. If a pregnant woman visits a new doctor, the healthcare provider can easily obtain her pregnancy care record, to ensure the health of both the mother and the child.

    3.      Consumer Mediated Exchange

    This form of exchange encourages patients to collect and maintain control of their personal health information and access their records online. This form of exchange is used to provide patient-centric care, hereby increasing their involvement in their own healthcare and increasing their knowledge and understanding of their health. Patients may need to access their records when they want to share their healthcare providers with vital information, correct inaccurate demographic, medical, or billing information, and keep tabs on their health and insurance information.

    HL7 Health Information Exchange Examples

    Some examples of HIE through HL7 include:


    These types of health data messages include information pertaining to a patient’s admission, transfer, or discharge status from clinical care settings. These messages keep the patient’s providers alert as to the patient’s current status and are helpful in care coordination and care management. For instance, let’s say that a patient who was present for a non-admitted visit is being admitted after an evaluation. This event changes a patient’s status from non-admitted to admit.


    Patient demographics, such as patient name, DOB, gender, preferred language, and race, help to identify each patient. Demographics are a vital part of the Continuity of Care Document (CCD) that is used to exchange patient health information.


    A list of the patient’s medication allergies is included in the CCD to help avoid an adverse reaction to any medications they are currently taking.


    A person’s complete medication list helps providers keep track of medication allergies and adverse reactions. These messages help avoid over-prescription or drug abuse.


    The HL7 ORM message serves to transmit information about an order. This message responds to events that involve changes to order such as new orders, cancellations, information updates, discontinuation, etc.


    ORU messages are transmitted in response to an order to provide clinical observations. ORU messages incorporate multiple observations, such as imaging study reports, clinical lab results, EKG pulmonary functions study results, or patient conditions.


    A patient’s medical history includes details such as the patient demographics, chief complaints, past health condition, complete medical and family history, list of allergens, medication lists, diagnosis, and physical examination.


    These messages facilitate the exchange of a patient’s diagnostic imaging results among the care team. These exchanges prove to be bliss in telemedicine and remote monitoring of patients. Not to mention, they reduce costs by preventing test redundancy.

    How Many States Have HL7 Health Information Exchanges

    State HIE programs help to boost connectivity and enable a seamless flow of patient-centric information to improve the quality and efficiency of care. The constant advancement of prerequisite governance, policies, technicalities, business operations, and financing mechanisms for each state, are necessary to meet this goal. The State Health Information Exchange program is built with the purpose to promote regional and state-level health information exchange and enhancing interoperability. Currently, all 56 states have stellar HL7 HIE programs in place, designed by a Custom medical software development agency.

    HL7 Health Information Exchanges in California

    Unlike other states that rely on a single HIE or public-private network, California’s strategy for health information sharing comprises a group of regional and enterprise initiatives, each having partnerships with multiple providers. For instance, connect healthcare works across Napa and Solano counties. It has partnered with numerous hospital systems, medical societies, and departments of health and human services, to exchange discharge data from emergency departments, in-patient records, lab results, and prescriptions, plus behavioral health data, and so on through HL7. Similarly, LANES serves across Los Angeles and has partnered with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, L.A. Care Health Plan, Quest Diagnostics, and Community Clinics to facilitate the exchange of ADT messages, discharge summaries, lab history, and physical radiology reports through HL7 messaging standards.

    HL7 Health Information Exchanges in Texas

    Texas has numerous health information exchange services that facilitate the exchange of key medical information, including demographic information, test results, and other clinical documentation, needed by providers, to make well-informed decisions for their patients. For instance, HASA offers value-based, patient-centered information services intended to improve the health status of individuals and the communities it serves. Similarly, RGVHIR serves 8 counties, including Brooks, Cameron, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Kenedy, Webb, Willacy, Starr, and Zapata, with a goal to provide a comprehensive system for the secure exchange of health information to improve communication and patient care.

    HL7 Health Information Exchanges In Ohio

    CliniSync, the non-profit statewide health information exchange for Ohio, has partnered with all hospitals, practices, behavioral health, long-term, and post-acute care facilities, and other health professionals involved in patient care across Ohio. Any providers within these facilities will be able to view the record in one place, pertaining to encounters and patient health information at different facilities.

    HL7 Health Information Exchanges In NJ

    The New Jersey Health Information Network (NJHIN) is the only information network that enables the electronic exchange of patient health information among trusted data sources across the entire state of New Jersey. All 71 hospitals and numerous Health Information Exchange organizations in New Jersey are connected to the NJHIN.

    HL7 Health Information Exchange In Utah

    UHIN is the state-designated Health Information Exchange (HIE) in Utah that connects various health care insurers, providers, and other interested parties. UHIN hopes to leverage HIE to ensure reduced costs, improved quality, and better results by fostering data-driven decisions. UHIN seamlessly allows providers, payers, and patients to securely exchange clinical information, claims, and reports through HL7 framework.

    HL7 Health Information Exchange In Michigan

    Michigan sees thirteen HIEs connected to Michigan Health Information Network Shared Services (MiHIN), each working to facilitate a seamless exchange of key patient information. These exchanges work directly with hospitals, doctors, physician organizations, and other healthcare providers to improve communication regarding a patient’s care. MiHIN includes several HIEs including, Ingenium, Michigan medicine, PatientPing, Great Lakes Health Connect, and Henry Ford Health System.

    HL7 Health Information Exchange In Florida

    Florida HIE Services are transforming health care in Florida through the use of health information technology that enables the secure electronic exchange of patient health information among health care providers.  Similarly, the Florida Health Information Exchange also ensures the secure exchange of health information through several services between health care providers, hospital systems, and payers. Both HIE Programs leverage the HL7 framework to update participating subscribers with timely notice of patients’ hospital encounters and provide health care organizations and providers with a way to securely send health information over the internet.

    Hl7 Health Information Exchange In Virginia

    ConnectVirginia HIE, Inc. is the Statewide Health Information Exchange (HIE) for the Commonwealth of Virginia that is offering a secure, confidential, electronic system to support the exchange of patient medical records among healthcare providers in Virginia.

    HL7 Health Information Exchange In New York

    Healthix is the largest public Health Information Exchange (HIE) in New York and Long Island that collects, stores, and shares data from more than 8,000 Healthcare Facilities for over 20 million patients. The HIE organization leverages stellar Medical app development solutions to facilitate seamless data sharing. 

    HL7 Health Information Exchange In Georgia

    The Georgia Health Information Network (GaHIN) is the State-Designated Entity for the State of Georgia’s HIE. GaHIN electronically connects Georgia hospitals, physicians, clinicians, payers, wellness partners, and other health care stakeholders to exchange patient health information through a secure network.


    Solutions to challenges of health information exchange?

    • Send patient information securely.
    • Have a national standard for sharing healthcare information
    • Facilitate transitions of care.
    • Use high-quality data sets to train and execute ML/AI models
    • Create structured, standardized, and normalized data to improve interoperability
    • Work with a reliable Custom  EHR/EMR  software service provider

    What is a health information exchange versus a health information organization?

    Health Information Exchange allows health care professionals and patients to appropriately access and securely share a patient’s medical information electronically, while an HIO is an entity that governs the exchange of health-related information among organizations.


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