Founded in 1987, Health Level Seven International (HL7) is a not-for-profit, ANSI-accredited standards developing organization dedicated to providing a comprehensive framework and related standards for the exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information that supports clinical practice and the management, delivery and evaluation of health services. HL7’s 2,300+ members include approximately 500 corporate members who represent more than 90% of the information systems vendors serving healthcare.
The vision of HL7 is to create the best and most widely used standards in healthcare. HL7 provides standards for interoperability that improve care delivery, optimize workflow, reduce ambiguity and enhance knowledge transfer among all of our stakeholders, including healthcare providers, government agencies, the vendor community, fellow SDOs and patients. In all of our processes we exhibit timeliness, scientific rigor and technical expertise without compromising transparency, accountability, practicality, or our willingness to put the needs of our stakeholders first.
What does HL7 mean? “Level Seven” refers to the seventh level of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) seven-layer communications model for Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) – the application level. The application level interfaces directly to and performs common application services for the application processes. Although other protocols have largely superseded it, the OSI model remains valuable as a place to begin the study of network architecture.
HL7 specifies a number of flexible standards, guidelines, and methodologies by which various healthcare systems can communicate with each other. Such guidelines or data standards are a set of rules that allow information to be shared and processed in a uniform and consistent manner. These data standards are meant to allow healthcare organizations to easily share clinical information. Theoretically, this ability to exchange information should help to minimize the tendency for medical care to be geographically isolated and highly variable.
HL7 develops conceptual standards (e.g., HL7 RIM), document standards (e.g., HL7 CDA), application standards (e.g., HL7 CCOW), and messaging standards (e.g., HL7 v2.x and v3.0). Messaging standards are particularly important because they define how information is packaged and communicated from one party to another. Such standards set the language, structure and data types required for seamless integration from one system to another.