In today’s healthcare industry, HL7 standards are the most widely deployed standards. Why because these standards minimize the workload of the vendors and they no longer have the headache of custom designing and programming each system for applications. And the healthcare organization has access to best practices for processes such as the collection of patient attributes.
While looking around the other standards, there will be strict guidelines for processing and working on it. But, the HL7 standards are a set of loosely defined standards. These standards are specially designed in a way to find a quick solution to healthcare integration problems. As a result, there are numerous versions and aspects of HL7 floating around, and interfacing between disparate systems can be quite difficult.
Furthermore, different parts of the standard are and ambiguous at best and incorporate noteworthy alternatives. This prompts various vendors to make their interpretations.
If you keep your translation in the same language when integrating two systems, the risk of lost or mistranslated data will be ultimately reduced. More than 90 % of interfaces require transforming or translating one version of HL7 v2.x into a different version of HL7 v2.x. HL7 v3 is XML-based and a complete rewrite of the standard. It adds huge levels of risk and time to attempt to integrate systems by translating from HL7 v2.x into XML and then back into a different dialect of HL7 v2.x.
Keep the language simple and consistent to avoid mistranslated information during the process of integration
As vendors will keep on updating their products/software according to the latest technological updates, integration is always a moving target with them. These technological changes or updates often alter their interfaces. For instance, what data they send or receive or how the data is formatted. So when searching for the best integration solution, check and make sure there is good and clear visibility around the transactions. Because, at the time when you go live with your interface, the support team must be able to quickly view and identify all the transactions in to and out of a system. This will ultimately help you to reduce the time and implementation cost.
Choosing the right integration solution with good visibility will help your team to quickly lookup all the transactions in a short period and thereby reducing the implementation cost.
Integration is one of the real-world issues. In today’s healthcare marketplace almost many of the top healthcare systems were built more than a decade ago. These systems are still in existence they work hard to do their best, not because they strictly adhere to the standards. So in the real world interfacing, the shortest and most accurate path to interoperability is the best. It is important to have the flexibility to work with the real data coming from a system or required by a system.
Some of the catchy descriptions for HL7 include “HL7 is a non-standard, standard” or “HL7 is a great standard, everyone has one.” As discussed earlier, the leniency associated with the standards means they should work with the organization’s existing data and interfaces, rather than forcing organizations to build something from scratch that can work with the standard.
The goal of interfacing should always be to keep your work, and your interfaces, as simple as possible. By planning your data model, or building a more efficient data model on top of a sub-optimal legacy one, you can avoid the need for multiple redundant mappings within your interfaces. When you standardize and normalize the data, both within your internal data structure and your interfaces, you can easily maintain existing code and bring new interfaces online. For example, if you store a patient’s first and last name in both your lab result and pharmacy database tables, then you’ve doubled the number of mappings required for each interface. This type of redundancy can quickly balloon, leaving your integration engineers with massive amounts of glue code to maintain at each site. A well-planned data model will pay huge dividends as the number of interfaces you maintain grows.
Half of the work of integration is keeping your interfaces up and running. Make sure the solutions you adopt have support for monitoring your interfaces and notifying your technical staff when problems occur. Ensuring your staff has all the tools and training required to not only create interfaces but also monitor and maintain them, is the key to the success of your overall integration goals.
Most healthcare organizations can overcome the emerging challenges of HL7 integration by adopting these best practices. Hospitals and healthcare networks can minimize the time and cost of integration, ensure real-time access to the information they need and thereby help increase efficiency and improve overall patient care.