There is much discussion about the HITECH act and certified E.H.R. products. There are over 42 PDF files that contain the Health and Human Services criteria for certifications. One of these files discusses the need for a ‘certified E.H.R.’ to read in lab results using an HL-7 interface. What is an HL-7 interface and why is this important?
HL-7 “Health Level Seven International” is the global authority on standards for interoperability of health information technology. HL-7 has been around since 1987 and was founded as a non-profit group. The vision of this organization is to “create the best and most widely used standards in Healthcare”. There are many details related to the HL-7 that can be found on their web site at www.hl7.org Many in the industry state that we have an HL-7 Interface. There are different versions of the HL-7 messages as well as different applications of HL-7. For instance, HL-7 can be utilized to exchange information with state immunization authorities, collect/send lab results as well as connect to a health exchange.
Related to Lab results, lab companies usually have the capabilities to send the data in lab reports in a structured format via an HL-7 interface. The advantage of this is that the lab results, in a proper system, can be searched to identify patients with certain lab values (e.g. H1AC >7.0). To meet the ‘certified E.H.R.’ requirements a vendor must be able to demonstrate that their HL-7 connection can read results into the E.H.R. The certifying body tests with specific patient lab test data to see how the system responds.
If your practice has an E.H.R. system that contains a HL-7 interface, it might take months or longer for the lab company to approve the connection. The reason is that the lab company usually verifies that the volume of lab requests meet a certain threshold for them to have their programming team connect the lab results interface. If your practice has an E.H.R. system with a working HL-7 interface, recommend work with your E.H.R. vendor as well as laboratory company representative to work out the details of the HL-7 interface. Once connected, the HL-7 interface provides the practice better connectivity and less scanning versus utilizing the paper method. Additionally, having the lab data as structured data into the system provides additional options for searching patients by lab results.