What is HL7?

Every single week, when talking to practices about our EMR I get the question “do you do HL7?”. They might as well be asking me if I Tango. Which I do, by the way, although poorly.

HL7 (Health Level Seven) is one of several accredited Standards Developing Organizations operating in the healthcare arena. Most Standards Developing Organizations produce standards (sometimes called specifications or protocols) for a particular healthcare domain such as pharmacy, medical devices, imaging or insurance claims processing transactions. Health Level Seven’s domain is clinical and administrative data.

A frequent misconception about Health Level Seven (and presumably about the other SDOs) is that it develops software. In reality, Health Level Seven develops specifications, the most widely used being a messaging standard that enables disparate healthcare applications to exchange keys sets of clinical and administrative data.

So, do we do HL7? We can and we will once an actual standard is established. Just like when the electronic standards for the HCFA 1500 were established in the 90’s, every company in the market will embrace HL7 or whatever standard is finally established as soon as it happens.
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