Gearing up to learn about HL7 standards
Day one of HL7 training was a crash course in history, usage and basic technical information – essentially, what is HL7. The day started with a nice English style breakfast, but we wasted no time and dove right into the materials.
My impressions were that the information seemed endless and the learning of it requires assistance. Someone in the class asked about moving beyond the history of HL7 and into the more technical aspects, but the instructor, Dave Shaver, reiterated that the history of the standard is important for understanding why it exists, what its purpose is, what the limitations are, and what thought process governs the implementation of HL7 systems.
Dave often used less technical analogies to assist in learning and decrease the mental strain of less technical people (such as myself). This technique allowed me to quickly grasp the broad concepts so that I could concentrate on learning the more complicated elements of the technology. I learned that:
- The HL7 standards are defined by the entire healthcare community and is separate from HL7 technology applications
The standards rely on asking big picture questions about workflow and data model, and how they can be used to interpret the data
- Interfaces can be used as export “boxes”, import “boxes”, or customizable engines in between the two
- Sometimes data flow is a two way process, sometimes only a one way process, but not all data will always be transferred
- There are a number of components of an HL7 message, including unique data types, fields, components and tables, and they are customizable based on the standards
Early on, Dave told us that the goal of the training class was to address attendees’ personal questions and curiosities, while still providing an overview and explanation of HL7 as a whole. I found that this day of training gave me a good foundation about the basics of HL7, and that it was similarly useful to other people in the class.
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