Creating and implementing a new HL7 interface is not a simple task. While many major health IT system vendors adopt the HL7 standard in their products, their implementation varies widely. This disparity creates different challenges for providers who want to connect their EHR systems with other health information systems. However, it is possible to streamline HL7 interface implementation and achieve interoperability without experiencing many delays and frustrations.
Here are the steps to successful HL7 interface implementation.
1. Clarify Your Objectives
The primary objective of HL7 is to standardize and reduce complexity during interface implementation. Recent stats from Health Current show that there are 2.34 million HL7 transactions monthly by 767 active participants. This demonstrates the importance and widespread use of the HL7 standard.
Using HL7 is supposed to minimize the need for costly one-off interface programming. However, it is essential to know precisely what you want to achieve with your interface development project due to differences in implementation.
During the planning phase, state exactly what the interface will achieve and the expected benefits you will derive from the project.
2. Understand the Strengths and Limitations of the HL7 Standard
The strengths of the HL7 standard are clear:
- It’s a comprehensive framework for developing and negotiating interfaces between healthcare applications.
- It’s flexible and allows developers to use their discretion.
However, the intentional optionality in HL7 leaves plenty of room for additions to the original standard. That’s why a significant limitation of HL7 is that implementing its interfaces can be complicated and time-consuming.
3. Create a Clear Task Definition
Before defining the requirements of the HL7 interface, you need to do a simple needs analysis. While you may add as many features as you can, these attributes are essential:
- An HL7 TCP/IP connectivity layer
- Serialization and parsing of HL7 to XML and vice versa
- Serialization and parsing of vendor-specific HL7.
- Persistent storage of messages until they are needed
- Sending and receiving HL7 and XML messages
- Effective handling of message timeouts
- Customization by users without any major coding
- Ability to track the flow of messages and troubleshoot the interface
4. Define Your Workflow Requirements
After defining HL7 system requirements, you need to document your workflow and the overall process. Some of the questions you need to ask include:
- How will you map HL7 in your database?
- How will you choose the early adopters for system verification?
You need to adapt your business logic into the HL7 interface messages. You must then define the data to pull from the message and how to use it to update your database. Remember that how you define your business logic will directly influence the ease of maintaining your interface.
5. Invest in HL7 Training
As most providers do, you will need to work with a developer to build your HL7 interface. This, however, does not mean that you won’t need to improve your team’s knowledge base before, during, and after the project.
Investing in some HL7 training will make it easy for you to make smart choices while planning, developing, or implementing your interface. It will also make it easy to do simple customizations without contacting your vendor.
Learn More About Building and Implementing HL7 Interfaces
Contact Lifepoint Informatics today for a free consultation on HL7 interface development. We have the experience and expertise to build a lasting solution that meets your organization’s needs. Call us now at 877.522.8378 for a free demo.