HL7 releases new compilation of specifications

By Healthcare IT News
12:00 AM

Health Level Seven is trying to make it easier for the healthcare IT industry to adopt its standards for exchanging information electronically.Last month, HL7 took a step in that direction when it released a compilation of the latest version of its standardized messaging protocols.

The volunteer standards organization touted the decade of work it had put into the Normative Edition of its clinical information exchange standards, Version 3.

Now, the next phase of the job looms, as HL7 aims to prod adoption of the dozens of specifications in Version 3. While the standards have been accepted overseas, implementation of Version 3 has been slower domestically.

Additionally, work continues to move the electronic record from a trial standard to a normative standard. Last month, the organization completed balloting on the EHR System functional model and the CDA, or care record summary, implementation guide. Comments received in those ballots will be discussed at this month’s working group meeting.

In December, HL7 released the first publication of a complete suite of Version 3 specifications, each of which has received formal approval as either a normative standard or a draft standard for trial use.

It’s intended to serve as a single source for organizations or vendors that want to build interoperative systems based on HL7’s standards for messages, data types and terminologies, said George “Woody” Beeler, co-chair of HL7’s modeling and methodology technical committee.

Version 2 of HL7’s messaging standards have been used since 1990, but since the mid-1990s, the organization has been working on a totally revised approach, based on a single reference information model, or RIM, and a method that ties the model to messages expressed in extensible markup language, or XML.

While Version 2 worked well within an organization’s walls, Version 3 is intended to help organizations share medical information with each other, Beeler said.

The release of the suite “represents a significant contribution to solving the global problem of integrating healthcare information in a way that supports multiple goals, ranging from individual patient care to clinical research to public health,” said HL7 Chairman Mark Shafarman.

Version 3 has been increasingly implemented overseas. The first live implementation occurred in Japan, and the national system for exchanging electronic health information in the United Kingdom is predicated on Version 3, Beeler said.

Acceptance has been slow in the United States, he admitted. Current systems using Version 2 work fine in most instances, and vendors are reluctant to go to the expense of retooling systems without knowing that customers will be willing to buy them.

“We don’t know how rapidly Version 3 might be adopted in the U.S.,” Beeler said. “We have a fairly idiosyncratic healthcare system, and no one’s mandating that things must work together.”

HL7 may be able to leverage its early adopters program, through which it’s gaining user feedback on the new standards. Its volunteers also will serve as evangelists for the new standards, and those volunteers also are working in various agencies in the federal government, which eventually might bring more pressure to bear, he said.

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