HL7 is a set of standards for effectively exchanging clinical and administrative healthcare information between different software applications or information systems. HL7 was designed to solve the problem of healthcare interoperability by facilitating communication between various clinical applications. Using HL7 standards to develop interconnectivity interfaces makes the process simpler and faster, and it produces solutions that are easier to deploy and maintain. Some of the main reasons for building an HL7 interface include:
- The ability to create interfaces between applications residing on different hardware and software platforms
- A significant reduction in the time required to develop point-to-point interfaces
- Lower cost of development and maintenance of interfaces
However, despite all these benefits, building interfaces with this standard poses a significant challenge: the implementation of HL7 is requires some adaptation, especially with regards to data models. Unfortunately, information is formatted differently in most applications designed to use HL7.
How to Build Effective HL7 Interfaces
Here is a step by step guide for developers and project managers who want to build successful HL7 interfaces.
1. Obtain Sample Data
To begin with, obtain some sample data that exists inside the application you are working with. Use a tool that can act as a listener and get real data from the application.
Avoid using old logs that require reformatting. Using the appropriate tool will enable you to obtain data in a well-structured format.
2. Analyze the Data and its Structure
If you use an HL7 listener tool, you will get the data in the form of an HL7 message. After acquiring the data, you need to analyze it with a suitable tool to process HL7 messages in batches. You can use a message transformation tool that allows you to analyze your segment and table grammar.
3. Build the Messaging, Segmentation, and Table Grammar
After you have an overview of the type of data you will be working with, you need to determine the kind of segment and table grammar that will be effective for the data. Choose your table grammar based on the function you want to perform and the type of data you need to extract. Examples of functions include parsing, transformation, and translation. You need a well-crafted strategy to parse incoming HL7 messages so you can achieve a stable interface implementation.
While performing these steps, the following tips will be helpful:
- Look at the data in the messages and design the appropriate table grammars
- Don’t rely on standard HL7 messages because all vendors implement HL7 differently.
- Let your data requirements guide your segment grammar design.
4. Design and Code the Interface
Your next step is to write the interface program. While you write your program, ensure that you use good logging strategies. Know the critical parameters your code must check for and create effective error trapping code to deal with interface message errors.
5. Deploy and Test the Interface
You need to have a reliable quality assurance procedure in place. Use your HL7 message transformation tool as a quality assurance instrument. Pay close attention to the messages you send and receive through your interface. Test as many scenarios as possible and try to break your code by introducing deliberate errors.
Need Help Building an HL7 Interface?
At Lifepoint Informatics, we specialize in developing interfaces for efficient information exchange between EHRs, Lab information systems, and other external information systems. Give us a call today at 877.522.8378 to see a free demo or book a free consultation.