HL7 Introduction: Importance, Uses & Benefits of Developing HL7 Apps

HL7 Introduction: Importance, Uses & Benefits of Developing HL7 Apps
With growing technological era, everyone started to graft mobile devices and apps into Healthcare networks. No wonder, the requirement for a compliant framework driving application development has become obvious.

Well, HL7 provides such type of framework. HL7 stands for Health Level Seven. It was supported and created by the standards organization, Health Level Seven International. It refers to the data format and standards used at most healthcare organizations to structure as well as share medical data.

However, there is much more to know about HL7. So, here we will learn about HL7 in detail. Before learning about it, it is essential to know the importance of standards in the Healthcare sector. Let’s begin!

What is the HL7 Standard?

A document established by consensus which provides rules, guidelines, or characteristics for activities or their results is what we call a standard. A set of international health standards 'Health Level-7 or HL7' are for the transfer of both clinical and administrative data between various software applications.

The Importance of Global Healthcare Standards

Currently, Healthcare landscapes comprise a variety of care settings and stakeholders that leverage different information systems in their delivery of care. And, globally recognized standards help health systems assess and develop important topics, including leadership, governance, infection prevention and control, and medication management that affect the quality of services that the public receives.

Additionally, these standards create a strong structure that the providers, policymakers, and the public can rely on. Especially, it assures high-quality health services where it matters most.

  • Global standards help health services providers to:
  • Improve & assess upon their quality of health services
  • Regulate the type of care that should be offered and also identify gaps in their current systems
  • Improve safety in the workplace
  • Regulate efficiency
Global standards help the public to:

  • Know about the level of quality to ask for from their service providers
  • Get feedback on current health services deliverability
  • Assure that the health services they are receiving are standardized

Introduction to HL7 Standards

Generally, HL7 and its members offer a framework for the integration, exchange, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information. These standards define how information is packaged as well as communicated from one party to another by setting the language, structure, and data types essential for seamless integration between systems.

Moreover, these standards support clinical practice and the management, delivery, and evaluation of health services, and are recognized as the most commonly used in the world.

As we mentioned earlier, HL7 is supported & created by the standards organization - Health Level Seven International. This organization is one of the several American National Standards Institute (ANSI)—accredited Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs), which are operating in the healthcare arena.

Most SDOs produce standards (specifications or protocols) for a particular healthcare domain. This includes a pharmacy, medical devices, imaging, or insurance (claims processing) transactions. However, the Domain of Health Level Seven is administrative and clinical data.

Moreover, HL7 standards are grouped into several reference categories:

1. Primary Standards

The most popular standards integral for system integrations, compliance, and interoperability are Primary standards. Well, this category includes the most in-demand and frequently used standards.

2. Foundational Standards

The fundamental tools and building blocks which are used to build the standards, and the technology infrastructure that implementers of HL7 standards must manage are Foundational standards.

3. Clinical and Administrative Domains

This section comprises of Messaging and document standards for clinical specialties and groups. Once primary standards for the organization are in place, these are usually implemented.

4. EHR Profiles

The functional models and profiles that enable the constructs for the management of electronic health records come under this section.

5. Implementation Guides

For implementation, guides and/or support documents created to be used in conjunction with an existing standard come under this section. These documents serve as supplemental material for a parent standard.

6. Rules and References

This sector consists of programming structures, Technical specifications, and guidelines for software and standards development.

7. Education and Awareness

This refers to additional resources to offer more detailed Hl7 knowledge. Also, this comprises documentation of current trial projects which have already adopted HL7.

Additionally, by other classifications, including ANSI/ISO/HITSP approval and various search variables in our Master Grid, one can easily locate all HL7 Standards.

Furthermore, this standard encompasses the complete life cycle of a standards’ specification such as development, utilization, adoption, market recognition, and adherence.

What Does the Name ‘HL7’ Mean?

As we know, the HL7 standards are called "Level Seven." Here, level 7 means the message formats are layered upon the seventh level of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) protocol of the ISO (International Standards Organization). The seven layers are:

1. Physical

This layer connects the physical entity to the transmission media.

2. Data Link

This layer is responsible for error control between which may occur in the physical layer.

3. Network

For carrying out data routing for network communication, this layer works.

4. Transport

This controls end-to-end communication control in the network.

5. Session

This layer handles problems that are non-communication issues.

6. Presentation

This layer converts the information.

7. Application

It offers different services to the applications.

Why was HL7 Created?

The prime objective behind the creation of HL7 is to simplify the implementation of interfaces between healthcare software applications and various vendors. Also, it helps to reduce the pain and cost involved in custom interface programming.

Before HL7, exchange of data between healthcare systems was performed via customized interfacing systems that need a great deal of programming on the part of both the sending as well as receiving applications.

Since there was no standard collection of patient attributes or a standard set of “interesting event,” these interfaces were expensive. Due to this, the number of clinical interfaces in a typical hospital was small, and the cost per interface was high in the 1980s.

Initially, interfacing’s main challenge was that internal hospital teams and software vendors create new clinical applications, and each application is developed even without input or collaboration with other application development teams.

Moreover, commercial development teams hardly share proprietary data on how their applications are built. Thus other teams found it difficult to build compatible applications.

What Does Health Level Seven Do?

HL7 offers standards for interoperability. This further improves care delivery, reduce ambiguity, optimize workflow, and also enhance knowledge transfer among all of our stakeholders. Here stakeholders, include government agencies, healthcare providers, the vendor community, fellow SDOs & patients.

As in all of our actions, we exhibit timeliness, and technical expertise even without compromising accountability,  transparency, practicality, or our willingness to put stakeholder’s requirement at first.

Who Uses HL7?

Recently, in the United States, more than 90% of healthcare facilities use HL7. By more than 1,600 members from over 50 countries, including 500+ corporate members, HL7 is supported. However, we can divide HL7 users into three segments:

1. Clinical interface specialists

It comprises those who are tasked with moving clinical data. They create tools to move such data and clinical applications that need to exchange or share data with other systems. These users are liable for moving clinical data between applications or healthcare providers.

2. Government or other politically homogeneous entities

It comprises those who are looking to share data across multiple entities or in future data movement. Moreover, these users are often looking to move clinical data in a new area which is not covered by current interfaces and also have the capability to adopt or mandate a messaging standard.

3. Medical informaticists

It comprises those who work within the field of health informatics comes under this. Health informatics is the study of the logic of healthcare and how clinical knowledge is created.

And, these users seek to adopt or create a clinical ontology—a sort of hierarchical structure of healthcare knowledge (a data model), terminology (a vocabulary), as well as the workflow (how things get done).

Developing HL7 Applications

At the design stage, Hl7 standards are intended to be incorporated into development projects. Compliance drives the overall specification of healthcare systems with standards.

Besides, it has been designed to fit seamlessly into the DevOps lifecycle. Also, it aims to bring healthcare compliance into standard SDLC methodologies, like AGILE/SCRUM teams, and continuous testing/deployment/integration.

Also, it is the first healthcare standards to fully embrace mobile application development & the additional development considerations which mobile projects regularly include.

What is HL7 Version 2?

Nowadays, it is the most widely deployed healthcare data standard for 30 years. It is mostly referred to as v2. The best thing about it is, it predates much of the technology that we are using to read this article (HTTP, XML, JSON, etc.). Moreover, this has a very wide scope of profiles defined, ranging from orders/results to ADT and scheduling.

What is HL7 Version 3?

Same as v2, it is a standard for exchanging messages among information systems that implement healthcare applications. It is mostly known as v3. However, v3 is highly concerned with removing the 20% ambiguity that implementers faced in v2. Well, the designed principles behind HL7 V3 lead to a fully specified, robust standard.

The Benefits of HL7 Standards

HL7 is offering a structured approach to build fully integrated healthcare applications, especially by defining the underlying data structure for storing and interchanging healthcare data, it helps. Much as the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) standards have done for commercial data.

Moreover, the standards explain how data must be packaged for the communication purpose between HL7 compliant applications. It bounds the data interchange across a variety of stakeholders like centralized healthcare data repositories, mass healthcare installations, including hospitals, and specialized clinical experts.

The HL7 Future

Especially, the creation of better tools with which to transfer critical information is the main aim for the adoption of the HL7 standard. No wonder, usage of HL7 is enhancing every aspect of healthcare. This results in more efficient and dynamic work and also lessens the chances for mistakes.

Possibly in the future, doctor-patient meetings will be like, if a nurse measures a patient’s weight, the result is electronically populated into his or her medical record. Similarly, if the nurse takes the patient’s blood pressure, then that outcome is also electronically populated into the medical record.

Though HL7 doesn’t make this happen, yet the implementation and adoption of the HL7 message standard help make them possible more quickly. Undoubtedly, HL7 will continue to be a critical component in healthcare evolution.


As a result, we have seen the whole about HL7 in detail. So, here at Covetus, we understand the transformational phase Healthcare industry is going through.

Moreover, we help you to be at the top of every technology innovation, market changes, and regulatory changes, offering expertise in a wide range of medical standards; HL7 being one of them.
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