Interfacing insights for hospitals

Supporting each stage of an HL7 project with the right approach

Hospital interface projects can be challenging and rewarding.

Projects are challenging due to the flexibility of the HL7 standard and the need to work with multiple parties, but they are rewarding when all clinical applications are exchanging data effectively. The end result is streamlined processing of clinical data through a hospital’s application environment (see Figure 1).

Streamlined Clinical Data Process with a Hospital Interface Engine and External Providers

Interoperability becomes one of the key objectives for a hospital. Connecting the healthcare community can improve the experience of multiple constituencies. For example:

  • The patient experience is enhanced with faster processing and communications of key clinical information while accuracy in the communication of required tests and results is ensured through software tools.
  • The hospital experience is enhanced through more efficient operations both internally and externally—reduced cycle time in communicating patient data between systems and decreased costs through automation and elimination of constant data reentry.
  • The experience of a hospital’s key partners— physicians, clinics, labs, and imaging centers—is enhanced through a more effective means to receive patient orders and deliver patient results.

Consequently, an HL7 interoperability initiative is an important endeavor which benefits all entities within a hospital network. Pursuing the project in a well-planned manner and ensuring the selected interface solution supports each project stage are critical.

Stages of an HL7 interfacing project

To achieve the best result in an HL7 interface initiative, there are several stages an interfacing project will undergo.

Stages of Healthcare Interfacing Projects

Outlined below are key points in each stage of interface development and support.

Stages and Key Points of Interface Development Table

Using the points above will help facilitate a more productive approach to interfacing projects and raise the likelihood for success with the budgeted funds.

Hospital interfacing engine considerations

When undertaking an interfacing project, evaluating and purchasing a healthcare communications or interface engine may be included in the effort.

While there are several healthcare interfacing engines on the market today, each hospital will find the one that best meets their requirements with a few simple steps. As you evaluate options, several considerations need to be made. We have grouped these considerations in the interfacing project stages outlined below.

Developing HL7 interfaces

  • Does the engine include specifications to all published HL7 releases in use today? This feature will make it extremely easy to design, deploy and document interfaces.
  • Is it flexible in the way it allows you to modify HL7 standards, as required, in meeting defined requirements?
  • How does it handle “one-off” details such as “Z” segments?
  • If you need database interaction, does it have deep database interaction to allow users to read, write, query, or update a database?
  • What capability does it provide to act on input message(s) to produce needed output message(s) for selected external entities?
  • Are connections built quickly and easily through a wizard or is scripting involved?

Testing HL7 interfaces

  • Unit-testing
    • How does the engine provide the ability to test sample messages for conformance against defined changes to the HL7 standard?
    • Does it have the ability to simulate an application or external entity by queuing messages to configured connections?
    • How do developers test messages thoroughly and can they do so without involving an application or external entity until ready to engage?
    • What are its capabilities to test message transformation and complex logic for filtering, mapping, and routing?
  • Integration testing
    • What level of detailed activity logging and other key information is provided for each interface when testing with an application or external entity?
    • How easy is it to view message information to understand where changes need to occur?
    • What is involved when there is a need to quickly edit messages and resend them with amended data?

Deploying HL7 interfaces

  • How does the engine document interface configurations that are designed for productive use?
  • How are components built in a test environment and then how are they ported to production?
  • What tools are provided to verify accuracy of a developed interface once ported?
  • Is the user interface a click and drag technology for quick deployment or is a scripting language required?

Maintaining the integration

  • Does the engine guarantee message delivery— first in, first out?
  • Is the logging module effective and does it take the guesswork out of maintenance and support?
  • Are the alerts user-defined and are they flexible enough to support a broad range of options to accommodate for peak workflows?
  • Does the monitoring allow one to quickly view connection status and statistics at a glance?

With an efficient project plan and the right interfacing solutions, HL7 projects can be simplified and desired results can be achieved at a reasonable cost.

Summary

Today, the rallying call is for “Connected Healthcare” which translates into an interoperability imperative for hospitals. Pursuing this goal provides many benefits to various constituencies who interact with a hospital. To ensure success, a thoughtful plan should be developed to facilitate the work, and an interface solution needs to be selected that supports each stage in the plan.

There is an old adage about starting a new project. It is Plan the Work, and Work the Plan. Supporting this adage must be the right solution so that the second half—Work the Plan—can be more productive and successful.

About Corepoint Health

Corepoint Health solutions deliver interoperability for healthcare organizations and simplify the complexities of healthcare data through practical software applications, consulting and training. Our innovative and proven software solutions leverage clinical data flow efficiently for a diverse group of healthcare entities including hospitals, imaging centers, laboratories, clinics and healthcare vendors. This next generation approach to healthcare data and streamlined workflow is where Corepoint Health specializes in helping customers discover the power of integration.

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