Healthcare systems around the world have been challenged in unprecedented ways by the pandemic. One key element of delivering effective care in this environment is the seamless exchange of patient data between systems and devices. This is where HL7 comes in.

What is HL7? 

HL7 is the messaging standard that enables interoperability and helps healthcare providers deliver better care. Health Level Seven (HL7) is a set of international standards used to provide guidance with transferring and sharing data between various healthcare providers.  

The HL7 standards were created by Health Level Seven International, a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing a comprehensive framework and related standards for the exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information. The adoption of these standards supports clinical practice and the management, delivery and evaluation of health services.  

Interoperability and HL7

Interoperability is a critical aspect of modern healthcare, enabling healthcare providers to exchange patient data seamlessly and efficiently. HL7 is one of the most widely used messaging standards for achieving interoperability in healthcare. By providing a consistent and structured way for healthcare systems to communicate and share data, HL7 helps healthcare providers deliver better care to patients.

Why does healthcare need HL7? 

Many healthcare providers, particularly specialists, are required to access multiple electronic systems to see relevant diagnoses for a patient. This can be even more challenging if they provide services in outpatient clinics that are not integrated with the local hospital system. This is where Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) comes in and HL7 interoperability standards, such as the messaging format HLv2 or the most recent FHIR, exercise their value.

By providing a common language around content and structures for clinical data classes (e.g. diagnoses, allergies, procedures, …) data can be exchanged across EHRs without ambiguity and risk of misinterpretation. 

What are the benefits of HL7? 

HL7 provides a range of benefits for healthcare providers, patients, and other stakeholders, including:

  • Maximising value from EHRs – HL7 provides the guidelines to help software vendors and healthcare providers store and share data. This ensures that data can be integrated easily across systems, exposed in a cohesive manner and appreciated by healthcare providers and staff, reducing administrative burden and improving care delivery. 
  • Improved care coordination – HL7 enables the seamless exchange of patient data between different healthcare providers, allowing for more coordinated and comprehensive care.
  • Better decision-making: With access to more complete and accurate patient data, healthcare providers can make more informed decisions about patient care, leading to better outcomes and higher patient satisfaction.
  • Reduce errors and improve patient care – With HL7’s common data exchange language, providers can easily access and use patient information from various sources, including electronic health records, medical devices, and other systems.
  • Increased efficiency: HL7 streamlines communication between healthcare systems and devices, reducing the need for manual data entry and minimising the risk of errors.
  • Cost savings: By reducing the need for duplicate tests and procedures and enabling more efficient care delivery, HL7 can help to reduce costs for both healthcare providers and patients.
  • Innovation: HL7 enables the collection and analysis of large-scale patient data, supporting research efforts and the development of new treatments and therapies.

What’s next for HL7 and interoperability?

Looking ahead, the future of HL7 is bright. The organisation is continually evolving to meet the changing needs of the industry. In the future, we can see the expansion of HL7 FHIR to support new use cases and data types, integration with emerging technologies and overall greater collaboration and data sharing across the globe.

How can Orion Health help with HL7? 

Interoperability is a critical component of modern healthcare, and HL7 is one of the key standards that enable it. At Orion Health, we understand the importance of interoperability and the role that HL7 plays in enabling healthcare providers to deliver better care to patients. Our solutions are built to support HL7 and other standards, enabling seamless data exchange across systems and locations. This allows providers to access critical patient information in real-time, make better decisions, and deliver more effective care. We are committed to supporting the evolution of interoperability and HL7 and helping our customers leverage these tools to drive innovation and progress in healthcare.

Interested in learning more about how Orion Health’s solutions for interoperability and how we incorporate HL7? 

Read our previous blog “Six ways interoperability improves healthcare delivery and patient experience“.