Clinical care facilities typically use a variety of complex software applications from different vendors. Because these applications are created by different software teams, these applications need to exchange data and typically do so via interfaces.
The de facto “language” used to move this data between applications is HL7, which is an international message standard. When facilities build HL7 interfaces, they have a choice of constructing them point-to-point or by using an HL7 interface engine.
An HL7 interface requires a sending and receiving module.
These modules are created by the software vendor who programmed the application. Even though both applications use the HL7 message format, they rarely agree on the specific HL7 format that is used. In order to bridge the differences in HL7 format, modifications need to be made to the sending or receiving modules or an interface engine is used in the middle to translate the messages.
The software vendors charge money to the clinical care facility in order to create the sending and receiving modules. The presence of an HL7 interface engine in a healthcare environment gives more control to your organization and saves money and time by: •Reducing the required number of export and import endpoints
• Allowing for reuse of data between applications
• Providing an easier method to interface a new or replaced application
• Providing the ability to monitor the entire system at one time
• Providing the ability to proactively notify interested persons using visual display and e-mail, when problems arise Purpose This white paper provides details on how an HL7 interface engine provides more control and saves time and money in a clinical or healthcare environment.
It includes a comparison of an interfaced environment using point-to-point communications and an interfaced environment using an interface engine.
Problem The typical clinical facility or hospital has several HL7 enabled applications and devices. To reduce data entry time and increase overall efficiency of the facility, these applications or devices need to communicate with each other. There are two basic ways this can be accomplished:
1. Point-to-point where each pair of applications communicates independently of other applications.
2. Using an interface engine that is placed between all the applications to aid in information exchange and monitoring. Creating communication To facilitate communication between two HL7 enabled applications, an HL7 interface is created. 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 Figure 1 shows an interface between the HIS system and the lab.
The blue box represents the export endpoint for the HIS system and the yellow box represents the import endpoint for the Lab system.
Facilities with point-to-point communication Facilities that use the point-to-point model find that:
• It is very expensive to initially implement communications
• It is expensive and time consuming to add new or replace existing applications
• They spend considerable time and money to monitor and maintain the connections over the life of the applications Facilities with interface engines Facilities that use an interface engine model find that:
• It is much less expensive and takes less time to initially implement an interface because an engine allows for leveraging of data and an engine is flexible in its acceptance of data
• The cost and time required to add new or replace existing applications is frequently less than half that required in a point-to-point model
• It requires considerably less time and money to maintain and monitor the interfaces because of the availability of centralized monitoring