What is HL7?

Health Level 7 (HL7) refers to a set of international standards for the transfer of clinical and administrative data between software applications used by various healthcare providers.

It fosters a collaborative community that is committed to improving the health of people through technology. It allows data that is in one format to be translated when leaving an Information System and entering a different one in a format that the receiver understands. This is improving the digital healthcare experience and health information standards and interoperability.

In the past, messages from one clinical system were not always compatible with other clinical systems, therefore messages could not be read and understood. To combat this issue a new standard (HL7 v2.4) for messaging format was created with clearer conformance points to support compatibility. Predominantly, Australian healthcare applications create and consume HL7 messaging, and many systems create and consume CDA (Clinical Document Architecture) messages. ReferralNet can transport all HL7 and CDA messages.

So why was HL7 developed?
  • To improve patient care and delivery
  • To optimise healthcare workflow
  • Increase interoperability between healthcare provider systems
  • Enhance knowledge transfer between healthcare providers

Recognising the blocker to the digital flow of patient data across healthcare provider systems, Global Health collaborated with Telstra Health to implement a much wider range of the commonly used documents covering the transfer of care. This includes discharge summaries, referrals, progress notes and diagnostic reports from pathology and radiology providers. ReferralNet is one of the few vendors that meet Australian CDA, HL7 v2 and FHIR standards to exchange these file types.

Although HL7’S primary function is to assist a patient’s medical record with the hospital and doctor, it, in fact, helps everyone throughout the patient journey. It connects doctors to other doctors, specialists, GPs, consumers, government agencies, employers and patients with the transfer of care. It also reduces harmful errors and assists in the medical record transfer between these parties. The data standards in HL7 provides a common language that lets different digital systems work together. This ensures that everyone can securely access and use the right health information when and where they need it.

Existing document formats used within clinical systems in HL7 are digitally signed and encrypted with destination addresses resolved through federated lookups from multiple provider directories, including government-maintained directories and each messaging vendor’s subscriber directories. The biggest advantage of this is that users can now exchange confidential patient information securely across a larger network of healthcare providers.

HL7 deals with pharmacy medication lists, lab test results, doctors’ orders and clinician notes, discharge summaries, medical imaging results, research and home health monitoring devices, and much more.

What are the benefits of HL7?
  • Promotes better patient outcomes
  • Future-proof your business by staying ahead of standards and trends
  • It helps in creating a National Health Information Network & Electronic Health Record
  • It helps in facilitating the development of interoperable systems
  • It facilitates easy communications between systems
  • It implements cost-effective solutions pertaining to healthcare
  • With the help of HL7 standards, information is delivered in a consistent manner to patients
  • Standards create best practices for the healthcare community

It is important to note that when importing HL7 to medical systems, most systems will discover and allocate the document depending on the patient, practitioner, organisation and document type included in the HL7. This process requires no manual intervention and therefore heavily reduces admin workload.

“I am so excited that we have now broken the nexus of eHealth from a ‘superhighway to nowhere’ to a joined-up system.” Said Dr Mukesh Haikerwal AO, a Melbourne GP and well-respected evangelist for the use of technology in the Health sector. “Messages on one system can now actually be produced, encrypted, sent, logged, received, noted and acted upon in another system: no fuss No FAX! It’s not rocket science – but it is hard yakka to succeed and implement change.”

To learn more about ReferralNet and the additional benefits to digitising healthcare, click here

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