Health interoperability is enhanced by the effective implementation of health data standards. One of the most widely used data standards is the HL7 interface. Understanding how the HL7 interface works and how to implement it can provide a number of benefits including cost savings, seamless data sharing, better coordination of patient care and fewer errors when communicating with payer organizations.

Here are some vital facts about the HL7 interface and why you should implement one.

What Is HL7?

HL7 is the most commonly used health data standard. It defines the data format, structure and coding of data elements that will be transferred from one EHR or clinical application to another within or outside a healthcare organization. The major advantage of HL7 is that it makes the implementation of interfaces easy, and it reduces or eliminates the need to create custom interfaces between clinical applications.

Two Approaches to Connectivity: Point-to-Point or Interface Engine

Major healthcare providers generally use a number of complex software applications that are designed and developed by different vendors. These applications may be used in the laboratory, in the pharmacy, radiology or in the consulting room. But for effective patient care, these applications need to exchange data, and they do this through interfaces. The most commonly used data standard for exchanging data in between applications is HL7.

When a provider decides to build an interface, they can build them using a point-to-point approach or via an interface engine.

  • Point-to-point: This approach allows two applications to communicate independently of all other clinical applications in the organization.
  • Interface engine: This approach requires the development of a comprehensive interface engine that serves as an intermediary between all the clinical applications that need to exchange data.

In most clinical applications created by software vendors, an HL7 interface will be present with modules that send and receive data. Each module will be created by software vendors. While each clinical application in the organization uses the HL7 message format, they always have distinct differences that need to be resolved.

To ensure that applications can connect and communicate seamlessly, some modifications are usually required in the sending and receiving modules of the interface used to translate messages. Most software vendors will charge a fee to create sending and receiving modules that enable their application to communicate effectively with existing applications in the organization.

However, with an existing HL7 interface engine within the healthcare environment, you can have more control over your organization’s health data interoperability while saving time and money.

Benefits of an HL7 Interface Engine

A well-designed HL7 interface engine offers you more control over data exchange because it:

  • Reduces the number of endpoints needed for the import and export of data
  • Enables you to reuse data between applications
  • Offers an easier way to connect to a new or upgraded application
  • Provides the capability to monitor and control your entire system at once
  • Gives you the ability to send notices to appropriate personnel through email or screencast when an issue comes up

Should You Use an HL7 Interface Engine or Just Get a Point-to-Point Interface?

If your organization has more than two applications that need to exchange data, it’s more economical and efficient for you to invest in an HL7 interface engine than to ask each software vendor to develop point-to-point data exchange modules that can only work between a pair of applications.

For more information on how to build a robust HL7 interface engine to facilitate data exchange in your organization, call Lifepoint at 877.522.8378 today for a free consultation or demo.