How does HL7 Support Interoperability in Healthcare?

2 August 2022

AUTHORED BY: DB Technology

HL7 is a standard message format used by healthcare facilities to exchange electronic protected health information (ePHI). Electronic data exchange allows for secure and immediate access to this information throughout the organization. Achieving interoperability in healthcare would be quite the challenge without HL7. And by using a document management system that relies on HL7 messages to store and manage data, healthcare facilities can successfully leverage HL7’s interoperable qualities to streamline workflows and manage patient data. 

A Quick Refresher: How is HL7 Used in Healthcare?

As a standard for EDI (electronic data interchange), HL7 allows for a common set of rules to exchange data in the form of discreet transactions for all the activities in a healthcare encounter. Without the consensus of the consortium of healthcare information technology companies to this type of common framework, each system would have to negotiate a means of exchanging data. This would require various means of exchanging data between systems and increase the amount of work to integrate multiple disparate systems. Not only would this impede productivity, but it would also increase the potential for errors in patient care.

In essence, the overall purpose of HL7 is simply to allow data to be sent from disparate systems and be able to be recognized with a single data parsing engine. In real-world applications, for example, patients are registered in the registration system, and orders for tests and procedures are placed, potentially in completely different systems. In HL7 terms, the registration action will generate an ADT transaction that is then sent to downstream systems through an interface engine in real time. Those other systems, Lab, Radiology, etc., in which orders are to be placed, receive the ADT transaction and create the patient’s record electronically, before the patient even arrives for service. Orders created in those ancillary systems generate transactions, which are then sent to other systems accordingly. The process continues with actions such as adding diagnostic information, observation information and results and even billing/financial updates.  Clearly, without the HL7 standard, there would be a great deal of confusion and inefficiency.

HL7 Message Types & The Best Way to Manage Data

There are a variety of HL7 transactions that are covered in a healthcare encounter. These message types allow for the seamless transfer of patient health data from one system to another. By allowing for this line of communication between systems, healthcare environments are enabled to effectively and efficiently share patient information.

The most common message types include:

  • ADT (Admission, Discharge, Transfer) census tasks.
  • ORM/ORU (Order Entry Message/Observation Result) for clinical and nonclinical orders and results.
  • SIU (Scheduling Information Unsolicited) for scheduling tasks.
  • MDM (Medical Document Message) for the transfer of medical documents.
  • DFT (Detailed Financial Transaction) for the final billing of services rendered.

With these message types comes a wide variety of data and documents that must be properly managed. A document management system that is built with HL7 messaging standards in mind will allow you to manage this data in a secure, efficient way. With dbtech’s Ras, we can accept any of these transaction types to create a patient folder or print a document. Because this is a machine encoded format, Ras can also create a more user-friendly version of the data for consumption by non-technical employees.

By supporting workflows and interoperability, Ras helps you get the most out of your HL7 message types while also providing a better way to manage patient documents.

HL7 & Ras Go Hand-in-Hand

If you’re looking for a way to better manage patient data and take full advantage of HL7 messaging capabilities, look no further than Ras. Our inbound HL7 listener is configured to listen for messages from a variety of other systems. Based on the content in the transaction, our application can perform various automated actions such as creating an electronic record or printing a document. This makes for better, more integrated workflows and a higher level of interoperability between systems.

Further, the data from these HL7 transactions can be used to pre-populate electronic forms and documents such as consent forms, face sheets, armbands and labels, as well as to trigger the automatic printing of electronic forms at local or remote printers throughout the organization. Ultimately, this means eliminating manual updating of folders and patient data and more time spent on patient care.

Lastly, Ras has the ability to send patient information out to your interface engine in HL7 format, following certain actions. 

Why Ras with dbtech?

HL7 messaging format is a critical piece of healthcare technology infrastructure. It enables different systems to communicate with each other, sharing data in a way that makes interoperability possible. Without HL7, healthcare would be in a very different place and it’s hard to imagine how we could get along without it. Ras was built specifically with HL7 in mind, making document management and workflows a streamlined process. If you’re looking for a solution that will make your healthcare organization more efficient, contact dbtech today to learn more about Ras.

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