One of the first challenges when researching HL7 interfaces and connectivity is answering the question, “How do download a copy of the HL7 standard specification?” The unfortunate answer is that there is no free copy of the HL7 manual. You purchase the document from the HL7 standards organization.
To get the HL7 specification / guide, visit the official HL7 web site. The cost for the reference will vary based on what version(s) of HL7 you want. Figure spending around $500 if you not a member of HL7.
If you are a technical type — software developer, product manager, clinical application installer, etc. — it seems “wrong” that a standard should cost money. The need to purchase the standard is much different than the approach taken by so many other broad Internet standards.
In the more vertical standards world, often you have to purchase the handbook documents; they are not available for free. Whether it is X.12 (for HIPAA standards) or ASTM (for the CCR standard), you need to plunk down your credit card to get the guidebook.
HL7 tools can drastically help reduce the dependency on the paper standard. However, any software tool is not a replacement for the standard itself — the browser (or interface engine) only augments the narrative found in the standard proper. That is, an HL7 integration tool can tell you that “PID-8” is the patient’s gender or that an ADT A01 transaction is an inpatient admission, but you’ll need the HL7 specification proper to help understand the intent of the message.
In addition to the formal specification, you’ll need your vendor’s HL7 specification. This implementation guide tells you what choices a vendor has made in their HL7 interface. How a vendor implements HL7 messaging is as interesting as the formal specification.
Latest posts by Dave Shaver (see all)
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