HL7 provides the standardization needed by disparate healthcare systems to communicate safely and securely. It is often described as the translator between two systems that utilize different languages. Since there are numerous different types of organizations using numerous computer languages all of which need to share sensitive patient information, a standard for consistent communication was required. In his article, HL7 101: A Beginner’s Guide, from For the Record, Dave Shaver explains, “In extremely general terms, HL7 is a messaging standard that enables clinical applications to exchange data.”1
The reach of HL7 as the standard is vast. According to HL7 International (a treasure trove of valuable resources), “HL7 is supported by more than 1,600 members from over 50 countries, includes 500+ corporate members representing healthcare providers, government stakeholders, payers, pharmaceutical companies, vendors/suppliers, and consulting firms.”2
Institutions needing to utilize HL7 require an interface that will automate the process of formatting their data so that they can send and receive sensitive patient information securely. Again, referring to Dave Shaver’s article, an interface engine “serves as a ‘hub’ that both routes and translates data between linked applications.”3 An integration specialist writes the complex computer code to get the various systems talking. When done well, it provides a seamless experience for the user allowing their system to obtain and send the information they need.