First, HL7 is Health Level Seven. It is an organization of volunteers who define the data specifications for various message types (e.g., ADT, ORM, ORU, etc.). These HL7 specification documents provide the framework in which to communicate patient information between healthcare organizations. There are several versions of HL7 – versions 2.x and version 3. Today, the different versions under the HL7 version 2.x family are the mostly commonly used.
Second, “interface” is defined as an “interconnection” or “interaction” or “communication” between applications or systems. Healthcare application vendors need to provide a means within their application for this interaction to take place.
Healthcare vendors will use the HL7 interface specifications for the various message types as a starting point and also will expose an input and/or output interface for their application. An HL7 interface includes:
- An export endpoint for the sending application
- An import endpoint for the receiving application
- A method of moving data between the two endpoints (TCP/IP communication is the most common transport)
All these elements together will constitute an HL7 interface.
To learn more about HL7 messaging, two white papers are available – “what is your healthcare interfacing method?” (pdf) and “The Evolution of HL7: Comparing HL7 Version 2 to Version 3 (Including a History of Version 2)” (PDF). Read more about the Corepoint Health HL7 interface and how complex interfaces can be built simply with a test-as-you-develop approach.