What is HL7?

PACS Training - HL7 Basics 101

HL7: The Standard For Exchanging Healthcare Information

Health Level 7 (HL7) is a set of international standards. These standards define the method of exchanging healthcare information. HL7 essential for ensuring that different healthcare systems can communicate with each other effectively. The key component that ties all these separate systems together is the shared language that is Health Layer 7.

In this module, we’ll take a closer look at HL7 and how it can help improve the quality of care for patients.

What Is HL7, And What Does It Do?

HL7 is a set of standards for exchanging healthcare information electronically through messages. The standards define how information is structured and exchanged between different systems, making it possible for different types of software to work together. This interoperability is essential for providing coordinated care and ensuring that patients receive the best possible treatment. 

HL7 standards are used by hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare providers worldwide. They are also used by health insurers, government agencies, and software developers. 

By enabling different medical systems to exchange information seamlessly, HL7 standards allow patients to receive the care they need when and where they need it.

How Does HL7 Work, And What Are Its Benefits?

HL7 can be used to send patient records, lab results, and other types of data. One of the benefits of HL7 is that it allows different types of medical software to work together.  HL7 is a necessity for systems integration.

For example, a hospital could use one type of software to keep track of patient records and another type of software for billing. By using HL7, the two systems can share information seamlessly. 

This can save time and improve efficiency. Another benefit of HL7 is that it helps to ensure accuracy. This is because the data is standardized, so there is less room for error. Overall, HL7 can be a valuable tool for healthcare organizations, helping to improve efficiency and accuracy.

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Most Important HL7 Standards And Their Importance 

The HL7 organization develops standards for the exchange of electronic health information. Some of the most important HL7 standards include the following:

The HL7 Version 2 Standard: 

HL7 v2 messages are organized into distinct segments of a message. The most common being ADT, ORM, and ORU. Version 2 is coded in ASCII.

The HL7 Version 3 Standard: 

HL7 v3 provides a framework for exchanging structured clinical and administrative data. This standard is important because it helps to ensure that different healthcare systems can interoperate with each other. HL7 v3 is coded in XML.

The HL7 Clinical Document Architecture (CDA) Standard: 

This defines the structure of clinical documents such as discharge summaries and progress notes. This standard is important because it helps to ensure that clinical documents can be exchanged between different healthcare systems.

The HL7 FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) Standard: 

FHIR defines a set of resources that can be used to exchange health information. This standard is important because it enables healthcare providers to gain access and share patient data from different healthcare systems.

These are just a few of the most important HL7 standards. These standards are important to healthcare providers and patients because they help ensure that electronic health information can be exchanged between different healthcare systems.

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How Will The Future Of HL7 Impact Healthcare Providers And Patients Worldwide?

Healthcare providers and software providers worldwide use HL7 standards, which play a vital role in ensuring that health information is accurately transmitted between different systems. 

The future of HL7 will have a significant impact on healthcare providers and patients around the world. HL7 training will become increasingly important for healthcare professionals, as they will need to understand and use the latest HL7 standards to ensure that health information is exchanged accurately and efficiently. 

In addition, patients will benefit from the continued development of HL7 standards, as they will ensure that their health information is properly managed and accessible from any location. The future of HL7 is, therefore, likely to have a major impact on healthcare providers and patients worldwide.

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Real-World Application Example That Uses HL7?

HL7 is a standards-developing organization that creates specifications for the interoperability of health information technology.  What does that mean in the real world?

One of the most ubiquitous standards created by HL7 is the HL7 v2.x Standard for Electronic Data Interchange in Healthcare, more commonly known as just “HL7”.  In the real world, the v2.x version is widely still in use in healthcare production environments.

This standard defines how different systems can exchange data, focusing on the structure of that data. This is important because it allows disparate systems to share information, even if they were not originally designed to work together.  In the real world, a healthcare institution will have separate service lines that have their own unique software.

For example within an internal organization, there may be a scheduling system provided by EPIC. An electronic health record provided by Allscripts. A PACS from GE. A Lab System from Cerner. As you can see with different systems meant to perform different tasks… each with unique vendors that have designed their software in a proprietary build.. one may expect challenges to arise. Thankfully, that’s where HL7 comes in. Each of these vendors allow their software to communicate with other software using the HL7 standardized language.

In another example, for communication to external organizations. One hospital may use a different electronic health record system than another hospital. However, because both hospitals follow the HL7 standard, they can exchange patient information between their respective systems. This is just one example of how HL7 standards can be used in the real world to improve healthcare.



Who creates and maintains HL7 standards?

The Health Level Seven International (HL7) is a nonprofit organization that develops ANSI-accredited standards for exchanging electronic health information. These standards are used by healthcare providers, software developers, and government agencies worldwide. 

Why is HL7 important?

HL7 is important because it provides a common language for different healthcare applications to exchange information. This allows for better care coordination, improved patient safety, and reduced costs. 

What are some of the most common HL7 standards?

Some of the most common HL7 standards include:

  • HL7 v2.x: Used for point-to-point messaging between applications. 
  • HL7 v3: Used for more complex messaging scenarios and supports various types of message exchanges, including request/response, event-triggered, and batch reporting. 
  • FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources): Used for exchanging healthcare information on the web. FHIR is based on RESTful ( Representational State Transfer) principles and uses standard web technologies such as HTTP, XML, and JSON. 
Which HL7 standard should my organization use? 

This depends on your specific needs and requirements. You should consult a healthcare IT expert to determine which standard is best for your use case. 

How can I get started with using HL7 standards? 

You will need to purchase or develop software that supports the HL7 standard you wish to use. In certain cases, you may also need to obtain certification from HL7 International in order to use certain standards. 

Is there training available on HL7 standards? 

Yes, there are various HL7 training courses available on the web. Some free e-books are available on Amazon and some paperback books as well.  HL7 International provides direct courses which are available in the link below.

Obtain training directly from Health Layer 7

Free Kindle book from Amazon

Paperback books from Amazon



In summary, Health Layer 7 is a global healthcare information standard that enables discrete health information systems to communicate with each other. It has been around for more than 25 years and has revolutionized how healthcare providers share information both within their organizations and with patients. 

The future of HL7 looks bright as its standards continue to evolve to meet the needs of an ever-changing healthcare landscape.  Also with such an important field, there is a great need for professionals to manage and implement.

If you’re interested in learning more about HL7 or getting involved in developing its standards, visit the website of Health Level Seven International (HL7), the nonprofit organization that oversees the development of the standard.

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