HL7 & Pneumatic Tubes


HL7  & Pneumatic Tubes

As a child I remember asking my Father what he did for a living and as an engineer he gave me a vivid description of the intricate network of tubes that his firm designed so that the clients could deliver documents throughout their organizations.  Just a simple press of a button and the contents of inside the plastic carrier tube would be whisked away from one point to the next.  Reports, checks, and documents all transported at the speed that the compressed air could push them around the pneumatic tubes.  Even though old technology, pneumatic tube systems can still be seen in many banks today at the drive-in lanes.   As I have reflected on those conversations with my Father, I have realized that in some funny kind of way I ended up in a career very much like him, only a technology generation later.


Modems and Pneumatic Tubes

Dozens of recruiters call me monthly and while some have become friendly voices, most of the callers typically do not have any idea of what we do as consultants. I find that I frequently have to explain what healthcare IT consultants do so that the recruiter understands what sort of jobs that would be of interest to technologists like myself.

My early healthcare career was with a medical transcription firm that employed remote transcriptionists.  Dial-up modems were used to download dictation files to the employees’ workstation and the typed reports were uploaded at speeds of up to 2400 baud (if you don’t know how slow that is, don’t ask – it will make me feel really old!).  I have fond memories of the modem screech indicating the end of a productive shift as documents slowly made their way to remote servers via FTP.


HL7 – The Beginning

HL7 – Health Level Seven – is an ANSI-accredited standards development organization that was specifically for the healthcare sector to create “standards for the exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information”.   HL7  is  better known as a data exchange standard for key patient and financial data can be exchanged between healthcare organizations and is used throughout the world.  Every healthcare consultant, and recruiter, should understand what HL7 is and what impact it had on the industry.

The first company I worked for in healthcare purchased a Datagate engine and I was so envious of all the consultants who received their training prior to I got my chance to learn.  There was a lot of excitement around the automation and learning HL7 during the Datagate implementation – I learned a lot.  Looking back now,  it was apparent that the healthcare industry was just starting to go through a radical change.


What Does an HL7 Interface/Engine Do?

The HL7 Interface is the virtual “pneumatic tube system” of our time, much like the physical systems my Father designed with the biggest exception being the electronic “tubes” extend far  beyond the physical walls of the organization.

HL7 has evolved even further along as the modern day cloud-based architecture has arrived.  HL7   bridges the gap and allows disparate healthcare systems to communicate patient data between the hospitals, payers and other interested parties.   Every Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system uses HL7 as the standardized protocol for information exchange –  HL7 is the “international language” for healthcare data.

Every single facet of a healthcare organization is affected by an HL7 engine:

  • Registration
  • Orders (clinical and other)
  • Results and observations
  • Queries
  • Finance
  • Master files and indexes
  • Document control
  • Scheduling and logistics
  • Personnel administration
  • Patient care planning
  • Network synchronization
  • Laboratory automation

HL7 enables software from different companies to reliably exchange information thereby improving hospital workflow, increasing revenue and most importantly of all improving patient safety and care. The definitions in HL7 concentrate on the logical arrangement of data and what is meant by information in various parts of the message.  HL7 is secure and is encrypted during transmission between systems.


Why HL7?  What happened to HL1, HL2, HL3, HL4, HL5 and HL6?

The Internet is built on a set of technology specifications that detail computing at different levels.  Historically, the application level has been a the 7th layer and as the data exchange described by HL7 is between healthcare  applications (not, for example, between the computer’s network hardware), the HL7 non-profit organization named the standard “HL7”, reflecting is technology fact.

Medarcus is one of many consulting firms expert in delivering HL7 systems to the healthcare industry.  We focus on the technology so the clinicians can focus on what is most important that is Patient care.

For more information, feel free to contact me:

Varna Kadambari, CEO and Principal Consultant Medarcus
https://www.linkedin.com/pub/varna-kadambari/17/308/199 | www.medarcus.com