Last Updated | June 12, 2023
What is HL7 in healthcare?
Healthcare ERP Systems have transformed the healthcare industry.
Healthcare providers leverage a range of powerful features from software designed specifically for the healthcare sector. This includes Epic Integration Solutions. By integrating with these applications, organizations can boost efficiency, and interoperability, and enhance connectivity.
These revolutionary systems are a one-stop solution for healthcare providers. They make record-keeping hassle-free, including medical history, prescriptions, and billing information.
But there’s a problem. Although these systems facilitate record-keeping, sharing or receiving patient data from one software to another can be a hassle.
This makes it harder for organizations to share critical medical information, disrupting healthcare services.
So, what’s the solution? Health Level 7 are standards that make sharing data from one platform to another as seamless as possible.
HL7 FHIR interoperability allows healthcare organizations to share critical medical information with each other, eliminating the need for special software to convert data into a readable format.
Let’s take a closer look at the role HL7 plays in a healthcare organization, its benefits, and how you can get the most out of HL7!
What Is HL7 And What Does It Do in Healthcare Organizations?
Health Level 7 or (HL7) is a set of international standards designed for healthcare organizations when exchanging data across medical applications.
These standards were created by Health Level 7 International. The non-profit organization provides a complete plan for sharing, integrating, and retrieving electronic medical information.
The main purpose of HL7 is to make the exchange of medical information seamless and efficient compared to previously used transmission methods.
More than 1600 members across 50 countries support these standards, including healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, suppliers, consulting firms, and even government stakeholders.
But what role does HL7 play in the healthcare sector?
To view relevant diagnoses for patients, healthcare providers need to access numerous electronic systems.
Difficulties arise when the software used in outpatient clinics is not integrated with the local hospital system. This is when Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) and HL7 standards come into play!
The standards provide a common language and structures for electronic medical information, making data transmission across EHRs seamless.
Some HL7 message examples are listed below:
- ADT (Admission, Discharge, and Transfer): include demographic information specific to every patient
- ORM (Pharmacy/ Treatment Order Message): contains information on the order
- ORU (Observation Message): this is used to send and receive clinical lab results, imaging reports, etc. from the systems that produce this data
- SIU (Schedule Information Message): related to patient appointments, allowing users to delete, change, or create appointments.
The Benefits of Using HL7 In Healthcare
Epic HL7 Integration Services benefit both patients and healthcare organizations.
Here are some of the benefits of implementing HL7 in healthcare:
Enhanced Patient Engagement:
Before the introduction of HL7, governments and providers struggled with encouraging patients to take charge of their healthcare. This disengagement was a consequence of the fractured connection between IT services that various health organizations used.
HL7 FHIR interoperability bridged the gap between healthcare software by breaking down data silos and making data sharing as seamless as possible. This promotes patient engagement.
Better Patient Care:
FHIR provides healthcare organizations with more time and space by reducing the administrative burden. Hence, they can focus more on their patients’ clinical needs which leads to better healthcare facilities for patients.
Simplifying Lives of Adult Caretakers
Before HL7 emerged, patients faced challenges to view critical healthcare information on a centralized system. This problem was worse for adult caretakers.
Regardless of the source of data, HL7 gathers information onto a central software, making data accessibility more seamless and reducing the burden on adult caretakers.
The Role of FHIR & HL7 Interoperability is to enhance administrative efficiency by making data portable. Doctors can make analyses the day after the data was collected. It appears that HL7 interoperability might be getting to the point where doctors can access data in real time!
Access the Right Data from Any Device:
HL7 FHIR interoperability focus on simplifying data sharing between healthcare organizations and between healthcare software.
Every webpage has a unique URL which is quite like the unique tag of each healthcare data element. FHIR identifies this unique tag, allowing healthcare professionals to access appropriate data from any device.
Creating Intuitive Applications
The comprehensive framework forms the bases of healthcare applications, from EHRs to laboratory and medical imaging software.
For instance, a Medical Imaging Software Company can use the framework to improve the accessibility of medical imaging and lab results for each patient.
Based on the HL7 interoperability, software developers can create interactive applications. Users can access these applications from multiple platforms which makes data accessibility much smoother and more efficient.
How To Implement HL7 In Your Organization
Depending on their specific needs, organizations leverage the powerful features of several applications. This includes patient administration systems, radiology, laboratory, and electronic health record systems.
Just like any other integration, HL7 implementation is expensive and time-consuming. Since it links millions of patients’ healthcare data uniformly, implementing the framework in your organization can be a complicated process.
Here are two approaches designed to make this process straightforward:
This is the simplest form of HL7 implementation which guarantees an uninterrupted and protected connection between HL7 interfaces. The point-to-point approach integrates dedicated interfaces that have intentionally been created to transmit data.
The existence of interfaces between applications makes the point-to-point approach a simple yet reliable method. Thanks to the interfaces, the identification of data formats becomes much simpler.
Although the approach is relatively easier to implement, it demands a considerable amount of time. Various interfaces must be created to establish links between the systems, making it a time-consuming process.
Interface and HL7 Integration Engine:
The HL7 integration engine is a type of middleware that connects numerous systems. It transforms data formats depending on the standards set by a specific system.
It is essential to point out that an Electronic Health Records Software Company must not forget the User Experience design when designing an EHR.
Software developers can modify the UX design to enhance the integration engine’s functionality. This will not only ensure seamless data communication but will also optimize message workflow.
The best part is that developers don’t need to create additional interfaces that interlink systems like with the point-to-point approach.
Tips For Getting the Most Out of HL7
IT systems bring several benefits to organizations, but they also create certain problems. For instance, several organizations face trouble sharing information from one software to another.
Transmission problems aren’t just faced within organizations. The problem worsens when two different providers need to share medical data.
Trying to access data that has been generated in another system is almost impossible to achieve. Further complexities arise when systems generate the same data in ways that only make sense to them.
This makes data sharing and interoperability keys to maximizing the value of EHR systems.
HL7 provides guidelines to both healthcare providers and software companies on the storage and transmission of data. The framework ensures data can be integrated from system to system and interpreted cohesively.
Consequently, this reduces the administrative burden and provides full visibility over essential data.
There are several versions of HL7 and there is a high chance that you will face integration problems when implementing the guidelines in your application. This makes it essential to understand what HL7 is and how you can deal with it.
Since the framework does not specify which fields are required, it has been used differently by every healthcare organization.
What does this have to do with implementing HL7? Developers must understand how each source and its respective connected destinations have created their HL7 interface. You will define your app’s design and modifications based on this information.
An abstraction layer can be used to conceal some of the differences, but others will make their way to the UI layer.
Here are some tips on working with HL7 and making the most out of the system:
- Make Plans During the Initial Stages of the Project
When accessing data, you must consider the specific requirements each system has.
You might not be able to gain access to a system without a username and password, for instance. In other cases, you may need a random key-generating fob or even a USB dongle. This varies with the user’s context.
- Dropping Abstraction Layers:
It is ideal to work directly in XML. But that may not always be possible.
Under such circumstances, you must ensure there are as few abstraction layers as possible. This is because you will need to refer to the original document at one point. If you have too many abstraction layers between the original document and your code, you will face trouble making sense of what is happening.
- Get Sample Messages from Endpoints:
This will allow you to figure out what you will have to split into smaller pieces of data you can easily manage and store. If possible, it is also recommended to get the schema definition.
- Add More Documentation to the Message:
Adding more documentation to the HL7 message than required will help in debugging. It is also a good idea to establish good relations with someone at an endpoint. When things go wrong contrary to expectations, they can help you in debugging.
- Don’t Forget the Staging Area:
A staging area is essential when testing solutions, especially if you don’t want to muddle up the live database while testing solutions.
Examples Of How HL7 Has Been Used Successfully in Healthcare Organizations
The applications of HL7 FHIR are limitless and can overcome several obstacles that healthcare organizations face today.
The systems can enhance patient engagement and provide the support needed to make informed clinical decisions. HL7 FHIR plays an instrumental role in creating health management programs.
Office of the National Coordinator and several industry giants provide support which has enabled HL7 and FHIR to show their worth in several scenarios.
Cerner Corporation has employed HL7 and FHIR to develop advanced healthcare management applications. They have also been using these comprehensive frameworks to improve population health management capabilities.
FHIR is the foundation that IBM Watson Health and Mayo Clinic are using to build their clinical decision support model. Through the system, they aim to provide real-time data access to users.
The development of the EHR-Agnostic marketplace is based on FHIR as well. The marketplace is intended to create apps that allow seamless transmission of data from certain systems to other applications.
Several other software companies like Epic and healthcare organizations are exploring possibilities and the potential to develop applications that make data transmission simpler and smoother.
Conclusion about what is HL7 in healthcare:
HL7 has simplified data sharing in healthcare systems. The guidelines provided enable software vendors and healthcare providers to store and share data easily across systems.
While HL7 has reduced the administrative burden on healthcare providers and significantly improved the standard of healthcare services, it has still got a long way to go.
But it is undeniable that HL7 has formed the foundation of emerging healthcare standards such as FHIR.
Emerging frameworks provide a more robust framework when it comes to sharing, receiving, and storing data.
Thanks to HL7, the future of healthcare systems including EHRs appears more promising, especially since it simplifies data transmission across systems.
FAQs about what is HL7 in healthcare
What is the difference between API and HL7?
Compared to HL7, APIs are far more efficient because they allow users to access data on demand. The HL7 model, on the other hand, requires a subscription to access data, even when it is not needed.
APIs support medical health portals including FHIR and SMART which means EHRs are integrated with emergent health platforms, enhancing functionality.
Do all hospitals use HL7?
HL7 is not the only framework used in hospitals. FHIR was introduced in 2014 as an alternative to the second version of HL7.
Comparing HL7 vs FHIR, the differences between them become more prominent. For instance, FHIR makes data transmission much easier between new apps and legacy systems compared to data transfers in the past.
In other words, FHIR is an improved version of HL7 that aims to boost interaction between healthcare systems. The main purpose of this framework is similar to that of HL7: they intend to allow users to access data from multiple devices.