Today's healthcare organizations operate with a large amount of diverse data. This causes challenges such as fragmented data stored in different systems, duplication of information, and incompatible information in systems and wearable devices. HL7 integration helps to solve these problems since it defines the format in which data should be stored and exchanged.
As an IT provider with 11+ years of Healthcare software development experience, we at Cleveroad are here to share our expertise and help you understand what HL7 integration is and how it will improve your medical data exchange.
What Is HL7 Integration and Why Do Your Healthcare Business Need It
Health Level Seven (HL7) is a group of international standards for exchanging, integrating, sharing, and retrieving electronic health information. HL7 integration allows different healthcare systems and applications to communicate with each other and share patient data. The measures ensure interoperability and enable the seamless exchange of clinical and administrative information, such as patient demographics, laboratory results, medical images, and clinical notes, among healthcare organizations and systems. HL7 is widely used in healthcare information systems and is crucial in facilitating health data exchange for improved patient care and coordination.
Health Level 7 work mechanism
HL7 provides healthcare organizations with a number of benefits and solves several issues, including:
Uniformity of data in the infrastructure
If you use software from different developers, especially if it is outdated, you may have problems with data transfer due to the difference in formats. Health Level 7 integration will allow you to standardize the data and ensure compatibility.
Simplify the decision-making process
Data format inconsistencies can play a negative role when decisions must be made quickly. HL7 integrations eliminate this problem by allowing faster access to patient information from any resource.
Standardizing data exchange with external sources
The use of different data formats can complicate data exchange with external software.HLl7 data integration bridges the gap in data exchange interoperability. Moreover, using hl7 improves data protection and simplifies HIPAA-compliant software development.
Providing better patient care
Today's patients are demanding in care, and complicated access to their data from different resources can create a negative impression. HL7 interface integration into medical centers leads to streamlined data collection, storage, and processing practices. Freed from administrative tasks, medical professionals can focus on improving better patient care.
This list includes the most notable benefits of HL7 integration, but in practice, there are much more advantages.
Let’s now explore the most widespread Health Level 7 standards. They include:
- HL7 V2 is the most widely adopted messaging standard for health and medical data transactions
- HL7 V3 is the subsequent iteration encompassing messages and documents, introducing a more comprehensive information model
- HL7 CDA standards (Clinical and Administrative Domain) are focused on clinical documents and are part of the HL7 V3 specification
- HL7 CCD standards (Continuity Care Document) define patient medical summaries specifically for the US market
- HL7 EHR comprises a collection of profiles and functional models designed to manage Electronic Health Records effectively
- HL7 FHIR, also known as Fast Health Interoperable Resources, is a newly developed standard that utilizes modular components and is optimized for web-based APIs (Application Programming Interfaces)
Explore our guide to telemedicine software development
5 Use Cases of HL7 Data Integration
To explain what is HL7 integration application better, we will give you some of the most common examples of using this standard:
How HL7 can be used
HL7 integration in EHR systems eliminates all data inconsistencies and incompatibilities by providing interoperability in software. This will avoid many errors in data handling, such as duplicates, loss of information, etc. Moreover, the Health Level 7 integration simplifies the process of implementation and operation of EHR, which helps reduce the time and costs of system assimilation and improves the quality of services it provides.
Read our guide on creating EHR software to learn how to digitalize healthcare services effectively
Connecting healthcare systems to share data
HL7 data integration enables seamless communication between healthcare systems of different institutions, such as emergency rooms and clinics. In this way, all medical data can be stored in one system and later transferred to another physician. Also, all data can eventually be added to the electronic patient record.
Connectivity to external systems
In addition to improved communication within and between healthcare facilities, HL7 integrations also ensure reliable data exchange with external software, such as health insurance systems. Moreover, standards greatly simplify communication and data exchange with regulatory agencies, which speeds up all legal processes.
Supporting remote monitoring and telemedicine
The HL7 interface integration enables easy data transfer from patients' mobile devices into the EHR system, thus significantly improving healthcare delivery. It also improves patient satisfaction.
The HL7 integrations ensure that all relevant data is transferred quickly, efficiently, and error-free. This streamlines much of the routine tasks, freeing up more time for physicians to pay attention to patients.
What is the value of EDI healthcareadoption? Find out in our article
Possible Challenges of HL7 Integration You May Face
Despite a number of advantages, you may face some challenges during HL7 interface integration. Below we will look at them in detail and figure out how to cope.
Complexity and variety of data
Medical institutions deal with a vast amount and variety of data. As a result, they are often presented in different formats, structures, and standards, complicating their transfer. In addition to diversity, the complexity lies in the large number of data streams, which can negatively impact productivity. It's also critical to remember that medical data requires a unique approach to security and must comply with government regulations (e.g., HIPAA).
To circumvent this HL7 integration challenge, you need to turn to careful planning, standardized data mapping, interoperability testing, and middleware solutions that can handle data transformation, validation, and routing. It will also be helpful to use new technologies such as FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) to provide a more standardized and streamlined approach to data integration and transfer.
Incompatibility with legacy healthcare systems
If you use legacy systems created before the HL7 standard, you may need help with HL7 integration. Outdated software may cause difficulties due to the following factors:
- The legacy system's use of unique data structures, coding techniques, and communication protocols that differ from the standardized formats used in HL7
- Lack of system interfaces or APIs required for direct integration with HL7-based systems (e.g., integration with EMR)
- Loss of system documentation may cause additional difficulties in understanding their underlying data structures, communication protocols, and business rules
- The differences in terminology, coding systems, and data models between legacy systems and HL7 standards can lead to data inconsistencies and misinterpretations during integration
To cope with this challenge, it's worth turning to an experienced IT partner who offers legacy software modernization services, has HL7 integration expertise, and is experienced in creating healthcare solutions.
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Our team with 11+ years of experience in Healthcare is ready to help you with HL7 integration
Lack of expertise
Finding experienced IT professionals with HL7 integration expertise may be difficult. In this case, outsourcing comes to the rescue. It will allow you to expand the search field and not be limited to specialists from your city or country. You will have access to unlimited talent and technology from all over the world. Moreover, outsourcing is much more cost-effective than hiring and maintaining your own in-house team.
Modern medicine requires the interoperability of one ECP with another and mobile applications or SaaS. In addition, they all support different data formats, which causes additional difficulties because they are not configured to work with HL7. Therefore, you will need a different approach to HL7 integration to power non-clinical systems with HL7-formatted data. Using specialized RESTful APIs, building patient or physician portals, developing patient-centric applications, or sharing data with partners in a more easily consumable way can help.
Scalability and performance
Another challenge in HL7 interface integration may be the negative impact of processing large amounts of data on the scalability and performance of integrated systems. Solving this problem requires a comprehensive approach that includes:
- Designing a robust architecture that can efficiently handle the processing and storage of large datasets, as traditional on-premises infrastructure may struggle to cope with the increasing data volume and processing demands.
- Cloud-based services provide on-demand resources, allowing you to scale up or down your computing power and storage capacity based on the current workload. This flexibility ensures that integrated systems can handle peak loads without compromising performance.
- Using distributed computing capabilities, enabling parallel processing of HL7 messages and data. This distributed architecture can significantly improve integrated systems' throughput and response times, leading to faster data exchange and enhanced overall performance.
Considering the security and compliance aspects is essential when leveraging cloud-based services for HL7 integration. Cloud providers typically offer robust security measures, including data encryption, access controls, and compliance certifications that align with healthcare regulations such as HIPAA.
The described challenges are the main ones for HL7 integrations. We have presented the main ways to deal with them. Still, the best option for a successful implementation is to contact an experienced software provider who has HL7 integration expertise and can help with all questions.
Best Practices to Integrate HL7 Into Your Healthcare and Telemedicine Systems
Now that you've already explored the benefits and challenges of Health Level 7, let's examine the main steps you need to pass for successful HL7 integration.
1. Define why you need the integration
Before you jump into the active development process, it's worth defining what you need HL7 data integration for. First, decide why you need Health Level 7: standardize data, improve service delivery, or implement an EHR. You can contact an experienced software provider with expertise in Healthcare software development at this stage to get expert assistance throughout the integration process.
2. Find an experienced IT partner
For the implementation to be successful and efficient, you need to find a technical partner with HL7 integration expertise. Finding experienced specialists in your city can be difficult, so it is worth looking at the outsourcing market. When choosing a software provider, pay attention to their experience, expertise in the healthcare industry, customer reviews on Clutch and GoodFirms platforms, and portfolio with previously developed medical software.
3. Analyze current data
The best practices to integrate HL7 include analyzing your organization's data. A software provider will help you conduct this process, which may vary depending on the specifics of your institution. First, however, we will present the basic steps, which include:
- Identifying data sources. Finding out which systems can supply data within your organization. These may include EHRs, laboratory systems, radiology systems, and other applications that store relevant patient information.
- Understanding the structure and formats of the data. Once sources have been identified, examining how they provide information, including elements, fields, and forms, is essential.
- Examining integrity and correctness. It is vital to ensure that all data are transmitted in the correct order and that no fields are missing.
- Determining the requirements and rules for transmission. Once all the data information has been created, experts will determine how and where the data will be transmitted.
4. Ensure data security and compliance
Security is an essential requirement for healthcare data transfer. First and foremost, it is worth considering measures to safeguard sensitive data. They include:
- When choosing a software provider, consider the security measures they use when developing software. Having AWS security certification will also be a plus.
- Performing a comprehensive risk assessment allows identifying potential vulnerabilities and risks associated with HL7 integration.
- Developing and implementing robust security policies and procedures that outline how HL7 integration will be conducted securely. These policies should cover data access controls, user authentication, encryption, audit logging, incident response, and disaster recovery.
It is also essential to remember your region's regulatory requirements. For example, in the United States, regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the HITECH Act set standards for protecting patient health information. During HL7 integration, adhering to all regulatory requirements is extremely important.
5. Development and implementation
Once all the requirements are defined, the development team will begin the HL7 integration process. Based on the needs, they design the HL7 messages that will be exchanged between systems. They will also define the message structure, segments, fields, and data elements and determine the message types and trigger events for different interactions.
As for implementation, one of the best practices to integrate HL7 is healthcare APIs. They offer a universal approach regardless of the operating system or software tools. They also provide a great way to provide external connectivity to mobile or SaaS applications. Moreover, the APIs are reusable, which means that once created, they can be used for the same purposes in different applications, allowing for considerable cost savings.
It is necessary to verify that the HL7 data integration was successful. A team of QA engineers will take several steps and test different use cases, error scenarios, and edge cases to ensure the robustness and stability of the HL7 integration. This will ensure messages are properly sent and received, data is correctly transformed, and system interactions function as expected.
7. Personnel training
After HL7 integration, conducting a series of training activities for your staff is crucial. Run comprehensive training and awareness programs to familiarize employees with data security practices, privacy policies, and their responsibilities to protect patient data. Ensure employees understand the importance of data security and know the organization's security policies and procedures.
8. Ongoing support and updates
You should continue to cooperate with your software provider further for periodic updates. They will help review and update your security practices and policies to comply with changing regulations and evolving security threats. They can also update you with any revisions to security standards and ensure your HL7 integration remains aligned with the latest requirements.
Cleveroad Experience in Building Healthcare Software Meeting Industry Standards
Cleveroad is a professional healthcare software development company with over 11 years on the market. Our specialists have in-depth experience creating medical software (custom EHR, EMR, ERX, and other solutions) following industry security standards and regulations.
We want to present 2 featured Healthcare cases we have developed and successfully delivered for our US clients.
Our client is a manufacturer of IoT devices for ECG heart monitoring and pulse oximeters to check blood oxygen levels. The company wanted to create software that allows users to check these indicators on phones and a solution to sell devices online. Therefore, the client needed an experienced tech partner to:
- Create mobile apps for iOS and Android and connect them to the client IoT devices via Bluetooth.
- Ensure that the software solution meets the requirements of the 510(k) FDA Medical Device Registration and is HIPAA compliant to allow the app to store and process PHI data.
- Integrate an e-commerce module to the company's website and a social platform for healthcare professionals to increase trust in the medical community.
As a result, our client received a mobile telecare app that meets US health regulators' requirements. Furthermore, 95% of users' reviews rate the solution with "4-5 stars" because of its reliability and convenience. The app also receives positive feedback from doctors. Moreover, the solution provided a new revenue stream for our client and increased the business's social significance.
- Explore IoT-based System for Monitoring EKG and Blood Oxygen Level case in more detail
We also cooperated with a rehab clinic offering remote care and online consultation. Its Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system in use was developed by a 3rd party, and distributed as a SaaS solution. Nearly 40% of included features were unnecessary. The client approached Cleveroad to build a custom platform instead of a ready-made and inflexible service.
Our team has built a bespoke digital system to move from an excessive and expensive SaaS platform. To ensure safe data migration, the solution was deployed on the AWS cloud hosting. At the same time, it was necessary to ensure that our solution does not violate the US laws and regulations on personal data protection, so it had to be developed as HIPAA compliant. We’ve also used the AES-256 encryption algorithm (it meets HIPAA requirements and is approved by NSA) and other security and data privacy tools around access, use, and disclosure of sensitive health info.
As a result, the client got a bespoke system and web and mobile application with significant cost savings. The clinic's data was transferred to new secure storage. Due to our solution, the customer doesn't face HIPAA cases' legal risks and provides patients with data privacy guarantees, therapeutic assistance, and rehab services.
- Explore Clinic Management System case in more detail
By choosing the Cleveroad team you will be ensured of the following benefits:
- Proven experience in healthcare and telemedicine software development
- Guaranteed high data protection level by following best security practices and regulations backed by strong industry expertise
- Building telemedicine software solutions complying with international security standards, such as HIPAA, HITECH, HL7, TX-HB300, etc.
- On-demand services: legacy software modernization, from scratch development, cybersecurity, managed IT services, etc.
- Signing Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) per your request
- A thorough collection of input requirements and comprehensive post-release support
If you need a consultation on HL7 integration, feel free to contact us. Our Healthcare subject matter experts will advise you on all questions related to Hl7 implementation and help you develop an interoperability interface for your healthcare systems.
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Health Level Seven (HL7) is a group of international standards for exchanging, integrating, sharing, and retrieving electronic health information. HL7 integration allows different healthcare systems and applications to communicate with each other and share patient data.
APIs are one of the best practices to integrate HL7. They offer a universal approach regardless of the operating system or software tools. They also provide a great way to provide external connectivity to mobile or SaaS applications. Moreover, the APIs are reusable, which means that once created, they can be used for the same purposes in different applications, allowing for considerable cost savings.
To integrate HL7 you should pass several steps:
- Define why you need the integration
- Find an experienced IT partner
- Analyze current data
- Ensure data security and compliance
- Development and implementation
- Personnel training
- Ongoing support and updates
Evgeniy Altynpara is a CTO and member of the Forbes Councils’ community of tech professionals. He is an expert in software development and technological entrepreneurship and has 10+years of experience in digital transformation consulting in Healthcare, FinTech, Supply Chain and Logistics
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