Let’s start with the formal definition, introduced by the HL7 organization in the v2.5 specification. Here is an excerpt from section 2.12:
Definition: An HL7 message profile is an unambiguous specification of one or more standard HL7 messages that have been analyzed for a particular use case. It prescribes a set of precise constraints upon one or more standard HL7 messages.
In other words, this is a description of the data and messages that an interface sends and/or receives. The description covers the data format, data semantics and acknowledgment responsibilities. The description must be clear and precise enough so that it can act as a set of requirements for data exchange.
Benefits: Why Create a Conformance Profile
First and foremost, you can easily derive your HL7 interface specification, documentation, and validation from the conformance profile. You can use the profile before the servers, the network connectivity, the database configuration, etc. are set up.
You can also derive at least 4 implementation artifacts from your HL7 interface conformance profile.
HL7.org uses the term “Conformance Statement” to cover conformance requirements. Personally, I prefer “Interface Documentation” because it doesn’t refer to a specific template or content. Whatever the term, this artifact should be flexible enough to contain whatever relevant information you may need (and just that relevant information…) so the documentation can adapt to any integration project.
Gap Analysis Report
Using a conformance profile, you’ll be able to map the differences between the profile of the product you’re deploying and the current HL7 messaging environment. The Gap Analysis Report helps you document each difference or gap, providing a list of items the interface will have to address. These might include the data format, location or another requirement. For more on gap analysis, read the Caristix blog on gap types and how you go about performing a gap analysis.
Test Plan and Validation Report
Use the conformance profile to generate valid (and known invalid) HL7 messages so your newly configured interface can be tested. When needed, the profile can help to test the data mapping defined in an interface engine. The conformance profile can also help to validate that data semantics are applied consistently across an interfaced hospital information system.
Do you use conformance profiles for other purposes? Let us know in the comments.