HL7 Standards Overview- Know What To Expect At The Tech Side

In recent years, the healthcare industry has adopted and integrated technology such as robotics and AI to provide a more efficient service. Health Level Seven International (HL7) was founded in 1987 and promoted global interoperability in healthcare organization systems. HL7 is defined as a group of definitions, standards, and formats for exchanging and developing EHRs (electronic health records).

HL7 standards provide healthcare systems with a framework for the smooth integration between systems by providing support to the management, evaluation, delivery, and clinical practices of available healthcare services.

How Do HL7 Standards Work?

Health Level 7 International, a not-for-profit organization, developed HL7 to provide the same standards so that communication between different types of software can occur seamlessly.  

HL7 standards and protocols determine the framework that dictates how electronic health data can be integrated, transmitted, and retrieved. Regardless of the language, information, data sets, etc., if any data needs to move between systems or organizations, there is a set standard and protocol to be followed. 

 

There are two different versions of the HL7 standard; versions 2.3 and 2.3.1 are the most frequently used. Version 3 of the HL7 standard is not backwardly compatible with version 2. 

The Main HL7 Standards

There are many standards, such as messaging, application, data exchange, etc., that HL7 uses. HL7 standards adhere to set protocols for communicating and packing between distinct systems. 

 

HL7 standards define and provide formats for the data types, language, data structure, packaging, decision supports, and rules syntax. These globally accepted standards support the management, delivery, clinical practice, and evaluation of health services. 

 

The main HL7 Standards are grouped into the following reference categories:

Primary Standards

Primary standards are the most common and popular interoperability and compliance and are integral for healthcare system integrations. The following primary standards are the most commonly used:

  • Version 2 is a popular HL7 messaging standard used to exchange clinical and patient care information. It has a database query language that allows healthcare providers to transfer and request health data messages.
  • Version 3 is a collection of specifications based on HL7’s RIM.
  • Electronic health records (EHR) is a standard that provides patient profiles and functional models that form EHR management.
  • Fast healthcare interoperability resources (FHIR) is a web-based exchange language that ensures interoperability within healthcare systems is faster, easier, and simpler to write and use.
  • Cross-paradigm or Domain analysis models
  • HL7 clinical context management specification (CCOW) facilitates the integration of different applications at their point of use. CCOW is a standard for both runtime environment infrastructure and internal applications programming.

Arden Syntax is a formal way of representing procedural clinical knowledge. Arden syntax facilitates that sharing of computerized health knowledge between systems.

Clinical And Administrative Domains

Standards that fall under this category are document and messaging standards for clinical specialties. Clinical and administrative domain standards are only usually implemented once the organization implements the primary standards.

Implementation Guide

Support documents and implementation guides that work in conjunction with existing HL7 standards fall under this category. Any documents under the ‘Implementation Guide’ category only serve as supplemental material for primary standards or a parent standard. 

Rules and References

Rules and reference standards encompass all programming structures, technical specifications, and guidelines for standards and software development. 

The Benefits of HL7 Interface Implementation

The universal framework for data communication indicative of HL7 standards provides many benefits to healthcare organizations.

Data Uniformity

Patient and healthcare information can be exchanged seamlessly, timeously, and immediately between different applications between and within medical organizations. For instance, departments requiring data uniformity include diagnostics, admission, treatment, billing, etc. 

 

Health data such as EMR is limited to a single medical system or organization, which cannot provide a digital record for medical professionals, thus impacting patient care. An EHR (a digital record) is a primary HL7 standard and can be accessed and edited by multiple doctors and systems, providing better and more efficient patient care. 

Reduction Of Investments in Upgrading Technology

Upfront payment may be required to install a new HL7 framework in a medical system; however, the costs balance and reduced in the long run. The health care system life can be extended, not requiring expensive significant updates every few years, as HL7 standards use messaging services to interface any new systems. 

Universal Information Exchange

Healthcare organizations and systems regularly need to exchange and share data with regulators to meet the standards of public health reporting. The burden on organizational admin can be reduced and simplified by sharing data electronically when medical systems obtain HL7 compliance. HL7 compliance is of specific importance when information about medical device specifications needs to be exchanged. HL7 standard messaging can hugely benefit healthcare organizations such as biopharmaceuticals. These organizations need to meet specific standards when sharing clinical trials and drug development data, which can be simplified and accomplished by HL7. Healthcare providers worldwide have all adopted HL7 standards; this can especially be seen with the recent health crisis the world has faced. HL7 standards have made it easier to share medical data universally.

Workflow Is Automated

Standardized HL7 data can automate workflow through the synchronization of data. Healthcare information such as lab tests, records, prescriptions, and communication between departments can simultaneously be updated, removing any manual data entry. 

Patients Can Easily Access Their Health Data

Patients can access their health care information and update their records online when EHR and interoperability are combined. This benefits medical professionals as they can easily access patient data seamlessly and timeously. A complete patient medical history is no longer required when patients visit a new healthcare organization or medical specialist. 

Conclusion

The HL7 standard is one of the essential factors and components in the advances in healthcare interoperability. HL7 occurs behind the scenes to ensure health care systems and organizations can connect and share information seamlessly. 

In recent advancements, HL7 is working on HL7 Fast Health Interoperable Resources (FHIR), resulting in a more straightforward implementation. HL7 FHIR uses modern Application Programming Interface (API) technology to drive digital transformation in healthcare. 

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