4 Tips for Smoother HL7 Interface Validation

What can you do to improve the HL7 interface validation process on your next implementation project?

I was on-site at a hospital where a vendor was doing a product upgrade. The vendor and the hospital IT team were both committed to getting it done right, so the 2-week interface validation was thorough. That investment pays off. The upfront work pays off down the line in reduced help desk wait time and service calls.

Based on this experience, here are 4 tips to help with your next implementation.

1. Create a Connectivity Checklist
Before getting started with interface validation, the test equipment and systems need to be up and running — and connected — on both the vendor and hospital ends. Sound trivial? It isn’t. Every facility is different, right down to network configurations. Some examples:

  • Are IPs static or dynamic?
  • Are they using dedicated MAC addresses?
  • Which ports need to be open?

The takeaway: create a checklist, and get it to the hospital IT team at kickoff. Make sure the checklist is double-checked (really… don’t settle here) by the time you’re turning on the test equipment and connecting to the test information systems. You need the network connectivity out of the way, so that validation activities get the time and attention they need. And so that project managers aren’t spending extra travel time scrambling to finish up HL7 interface validation tasks.

2. Review Test Workflows in Advance
Vendors usually provide a validation or test guide listing clinical workflows that need to be reviewed and checked off during interface validation. Ensure that the hospital’s clinical informatics team reviews test workflows in advance. Take the time to identify:

  • standard workflows that apply to the hospital or health system
  • workflows that don’t apply (you can take these off the hospital-specific list)
  • additional hospital-specific workflows that aren’t in the guide

Validation guides capture a range of clinical and administration situations: patient admissions, lab orders, med orders, charge capture, and so on. But the specific steps are going to vary from one hospital to the next. So it’s important for the customer to pick the right workflows and add their own. The right test coverage means you’ll fix issues during testing, not after Go-Live.

3. Set up Test Data in Advance
Get your test data into the test system before the validation period. We observed that it took between 7 and 10 minutes just to create and admit a patient in the test ADT. This is painful during a tight validation schedule.

Setting up test data is also time-consuming if you’re manually creating patients and orders in the test system. Ideally, a hospital would have a set of test patient profiles, including HL7 messages, for use with the multiple interface validations that take place every year. Alternatively, vendors with repeatable testing scenarios might consider setting up a test data template to share with customers.

4. Document Your Validation Results and the Interface
Throughout the interface validation process, the team is going to be focused on getting the interface up and running. You’ll be marking pass/fail results, troubleshooting issues on the fly, and focusing on getting to the next clinical workflow on the validation list. Chances are, you’ll document on paper, in a file folder or a notebook. But six months down the road, will the paper documentation be usable? Chances are, no.

We recommend documenting your interface and the validation results electronically. Sometime after the Go-Live, someone’s going to be upgrading or migrating other systems that provide inbound data. Sooner or later, the provider or vendor support team is going to be troubleshooting this interface and others. Make the documentation easy to find and use, so you save time and repeatable effort.

Do you have any other tips that would help make HL7 interface validation go smoother? Share them in the comments.