HL7 Messages – Don’t Fall into the Beginner’s Trap

Tip 18 in the Interoperability Series

What’s The Big Deal?HL7 messages - beginner's trap

If you’re just getting your feet wet with clinical and medical applications, you might think: “What’s the big deal? I’ll just hit Google for some sample HL7 messages and get started that way.” 

Don’t do that! If you do, you’ll get some basic structures right – like pipes and carets. But you won’t have any information about the interface you’re trying to build: the message types it uses, the segments and fields, positions, optionality. Yet developers need the information in messages in order to build a solid set of requirements for the actual interface. That’s why real-world messages are the best option.

For instance, let’s say that you’re interfacing with a lab system. The lab is often the area with the largest number of custom data values. After all, how you treat a lab order and lab results varies by hospital and by vendor. To develop a viable interface, you need to work with realistic messages.

At the same time, many hospitals employ email security measures that block the sending of any emails containing HL7-formatted content – even if it is de-identified. So whatever you find on the Internet is likely to be so generic that it will be practically useless.

Lifecycle Management Software

Check out Caristix Workgroup for a full interface lifecycle management suite (16-minute on-demand demo available). Get started on the right foot and avoid the beginner’s trap.