Is HL7 Still Meaningful?

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While HITECH and Meaningful Use, Stage 1, primarily focused on get certified EHRs installed and operational, lingering in Stage 2 is actually exchanging patient data. Health Information Exchanges, or HIEs, are receiving a lot of attention and funding, and IHE Profiles are now finding real adoption in how data will be exchanged. IHE Profiles are getting respect, finally, which they may deserve.


To get the patient data flowing within any health care provider organization, though, requires HL7. HL7 is the clinical data standard, and many will scoff at the idea that this is a standard. It has been called a “framework for negotiation” more often than a healthcare standard.


Regardless, HL7 is part of the foundation in which any healthcare interface, integration, or interoperability initiative can begin. There are no “out-of-the-box” HL7 templates between two or more applications, since each application is implemented a little differently and HL7 is used with just a little modification. This is what creates the joy and opportunity for many healthcare interfacing teams in the essential work they do.


The key points to remember are:

There is software to make HL7 easier. In the commercial world, this software is usually called middleware. In healthcare, it is typically called an interface engine.

As it relates to Meaningful Use Stage 1, HL7 version 2.3.1 and HL7 version 2.5.1 are specifically called out as the ones to use. In the proposed Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements, it is narrowed to just HL7 version 2.5.1.

HL7 is also responsible for the Continuity of Care Document, or CCD, standard as well as the Consolidated CDA initiative. This will be essential to deliver patient summary data to other providers as a patient transitions through a cycle of care. CCD is also the standard used to give patients their own data.


To answer the question in this post, yes, HL7 is still meaningful and relevant. 

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