Health Level Seven International (HL7) implementation has become an essential consideration for all healthcare institutions; whether they are looking to upgrade existing systems or willing to implement a new software solution. The application interoperability prowess of HL7 interfaces makes it essential for the data integration needs of all healthcare facilities. And while the HL7 implementation might not be the easiest of a feat, it comes with various benefits of the healthcare institutes including a reduction in duplicative data, improves workflow for end-users, and much more.
Now, the outcome of the HL7 implementation will depend on the successful and complete integration of the interface. As mentioned above, the implementation process might be a little complex for the liking of many healthcare facilities; however, with proper planning and project coordination, HL7 can easily be implemented. By adopting a robust coordination strategy and hiring professionals, organizations can avoid various implementation bottlenecks including; incorrect display of results for patients, incorrect tracking of patients’ stays at hospitals, incorrect patients’ records, and others.
Here in this blog, we will be looking at some of the key steps and that can help you to successfully implement HL7 into your existing digital healthcare facility processes and systems.
Three Key Steps for HL7 Implementation/Integration
1) Planning the Interface
The first step towards the implementation of HL7 interfaces should be to finalize the scope of the work effort required for the successful implementation. The key here is to identify the resources required by the organization; as well as, identifying the HL7 interfaces which fall out of scope for the current project. The best practice to finalize the scope of the implementation project is to have a detailed meeting with all the stakeholders including board members and managers to discuss the needs, as well as, to dedicate the required budget for the project; so as to save time and headaches down the road.
Once you are done with the scoping of the project, the next important step is to identify the right staff for the project. The best practice is to identify the best possible internal staff, as well as, hire professional consultants that won’t just help to supervise the implementation project but also carry out capacity building for the internal staff.
Another important step when it comes to the HL7 interface planning phase is to analyze the segments and fields (content) of the identified HL7 interfaces. While the interfaces do come with their standard structure for messages, the locations of the field content can be changed. Thereby, it is important to analyze and review each interface to avoid any chances of data irregularities.
Last but not least an important aspect in the planning section which needs careful consideration and attention is the ADT workflows; which are associated with sending and receiving systems. There are various complex ADT workflows including the account merges, patient merges, and others which need time and consideration for the proper execution of an interface feed.
2) Build the interface
Once we are over the planning phase, the “Execution” forms the first step of the “Building the Interface” phase. It is here that the actual hands-on work starts for the HL7 interface implementation. Now, there are various steps with each one of them required to be considered dedicatedly to be able to complete this step properly. To begin with, interface engineers are required to get over with the application side work efforts; as well as, to elaborate the content and ports on those parts
- Interface build
The next important step in this phase is building the interface. Again, to be able to complete this task successfully you need to understand the specification of each interface. Setting up the interface aptly, so as to manage the content & field locations are some of the important considerations for this step.
The last step of the building stage is the connectivity testing; which then allows you to proceed to the validation stage. The process requires connecting the source and destination systems at the port level and pass the data successfully. Here, you would like to test sending HL7 data across those ports so as to ensure that no network barriers are hindering the sending or receiving of HL7 content.
3) Test and validate
Now that you are done with the building the interface phase, you can move on to the testing and validation phase which is an important HL7 implementation phase. In this step, you would need to invest time to aptly review the design, and content of the identified interfaces; to ensure successful implementation of the project.
The best practice at this stage is to involve subject matter specialists with extensive experience in the field. Involving subject matter specialists along with the interface analysis is important because while the latter does have the capacity to deal with the technical items, they aren’t the right data content experts you need to ensure successful project implementation.
- Unit testing – Unit testing includes validating the specific feeds, as well as, analyzing the preciseness of the data. The testing should be able to identify any leftover issues which maybe leftover during the initial gap analysis
- Integrated testing – This involves analyzing the upstream and downstream movement of data through the HL7 interface solutions.