HL7 interface is a frequently used phrase in the healthcare IT marketplace. Other terms include “interface engine” and “integration engine”. There are two key parts to defining an HL7 interface.
First, HL7 is Health Level Seven. It is an organization of volunteers who define the data specifications for various message types (e.g., ADT, ORM, ORU, etc.). These HL7 specification documents provide the framework in which to communicate patient information between healthcare organizations. There are several versions of HL7 – versions 2.x and version 3. Today, the different versions under the HL7 version 2.x family are the mostly commonly used.
Second, “interface” is defined as an “interconnection” or “interaction” or “communication” between applications or systems. Healthcare application vendors need to provide a means within their application for this interaction to take place.
Healthcare vendors will use the HL7 interface specifications for the various message types as a starting point and also will expose an input and/or output interface for their application. An HL7 interface includes:
- An export endpoint for the sending application
- An import endpoint for the receiving application
- A method of moving data between the two endpoints (TCP/IP communication is the most common transport)
All these elements together will constitute an HL7 interface.
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