What is HL7? A Beginner’s Guide

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Health Level 7 (HL7) is one of the most commonly used healthcare standards worldwide, supporting clinical practice and the evaluation, delivery, and management of health service undeserved.

HL7 provides a framework that helps govern how electronic health information is retrieved, shared, exchanged and integrated. The standards define how patient information is structured, packaged and communicated between disparate parties and also sets the data types, structure, and language needed for seamless integration between electronic health systems. 

The HL7 standards are called “Level Seven.” Here, level 7 means the message formats are layered upon the seventh level of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) protocol of the ISO (International Standards Organization). HL7 is broken into seven parts. Each section has a purpose and defines a new set of rules that may build on the previous set of standards.

What is HL7? A Beginner's Guide

The HL7 categories include:

  • Section One: defines the standard system integrations and compliance methods. These are the primary standards and possibly the most popular among the categories.
  • Section Two: states the foundational standards that users can build and helps define the standards and technology infrastructure they plan to use.
  • Section Three: helps link messaging and document standards for providers.
  • Section Four: details how electronic health records (EHR) are constructed and managed using profiles and models.
  • Section Five: outlines the methods used for implementation and includes support documents for other categories. This section may also serve as the supplemental section for other standards categories.
  • Section Six: explores the rules and references used to develop programming structures for software and aids in standards development as well.
  • Section Seven: educates users and provides the tools to help aid in the development and adoption of HL7 standards.

The fact that HL7 allows healthcare environments to utilize different features and versions of the standard, each new version of HL7 has few new options and features. Let’s take a look at some of the major HL7 versions

HL7 Version 2

HL7’s Version 2.x (V2) is the most widely used messaging standard for exchanging clinical and patient care information.  Basically, it’s a database query language that healthcare providers can use to send messages containing or requesting health data.

HL7 Version 3

HL7’s V3 more powerful than its predecessor and based on model-driven methodology built to better support conformance testing and streamline implementation planning. While HL7 v2 was meant to facilitate clinical communications (like patient registration, medical orders, etc.), HL7 v3 comes with additional capabilities for information and support for government reporting requirements.

The HL7 Standard is broadly divided into two categories – Version 2 (V2) and Version 3 (V3).

The standard was widely adopted after the ANSI-compliant v2.3 was released. All minor releases of HL7 2.x are backward compatible, which made it hard to evolve the standard. As a result, HL7 v3 was released and exists alongside v2.x. However, adoption of v3 has been slow, and the vast majority of implementations are still based on version 2.x.

The HL7 Organization also has few other standards developed for Healthcare Industry on top of V2.x and V3 and they are;

HL7 messages can either be encoded in EDI or XML. However XML encoding has various advantages over EDI. It is more widely adopted than EDI too, and there are a lot of tools available for HL7 XML Encoding.  XML messages come with properly defined schema files called XSDs, which are widely used to implement Health industry data standards. 

The message types are most important building block, and they define the purpose for the messaging being sent within Healthcare Organization. Message types are identified by a three-character code, and are used in conjunction with a trigger event. An HL7 trigger event is a real-world Healthcare system event that initiates communication and the sending of a message, and is shown as part of the message type. Both the message type and trigger event are found in the MSH-9 field of the message.

The creation and evolution of healthcare Internet of thing applications & tools with which to transfer critical information is the main aim for the adoption of the HL7 standard. No wonder, usage of HL7 is enhancing every aspect of healthcare.

Possibly in the future, doctor-patient meetings will be like, if a nurse measures a patient’s weight, the result is electronically populated into his or her medical record. Similarly, if the nurse takes the patient’s blood pressure, then that outcome is also electronically populated into the medical record.

As a result, we have seen the fast changing landscape about HL7. So, here at Santeware Healthcare solution, we understand the transformation phase Healthcare industry is going through and we can provide expert consulting, technical & support services for your Healthcare Integration & Interoperability projects.

Moreover, Santeware can help you to be at the top of every technology innovation, market changes, and regulatory changes, offering expertise in a wide range of medical standards; HL7 being one of them.

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