Monday, July 13, 2015

Interface engines: fueling interoperability

Interface engines are largely hidden to healthcare practitioners, but they can be vital to the exchange of healthcare data. Among the benefits of a good HL7 engine is its ability to function as a nerve center, overseeing all the pathways your data is taking.

When a hospital interfaces with an imaging provider, for instance, it needs to be able to handle multimedia data and integrate it into a variety of workflows.

A recent successful HL7 go-live with Radiology and Imaging, Inc. (Springfield, MA) was a reminder of the essential role an interface engine plays in the effort to achieve interoperability. And since there is no such thing as a plug-and-play interface, an HL7 go-live inevitably requires fully-customized Visual Basic Scripting (VBS). Each project has its unique contours that can be addressed through VB scripts.

In our work with RII, scripting included:

  • Automated email notification of team members when a message is fails or is missing expected elements
  • Custom routing and filters to match each facility precisely to the HL7 messages and fields it specifies
  • Making use of crosswalk tables to translate codes across different systems

On this project, we handled a full menu of data types, including orders via Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE), lab results and routing of data to an HIE. Iterative testing and customization was required, to go along with constant sharing of expertise. Detailed but parsimonious scripts were put in place to handle the range of client use cases and continued testing took place to identify and account for these scenarios.

No use case is too trivial to ignore as we jump over the testing hurdles needed to move into production.

After successful testing and launch, we also complete a detailed schematic in Visio. Once it all hangs together – and we can navigate test scenarios to the finish line every time  –the interface will stand up to a production environment.


Bringing all of your interfaces under the sway of an engine cuts down immensely on system complexity. DHIT is the exclusive North American partner for the HL7Connect engine, which enables us to take advantage of a number of key features to reduce our clients’ interface headaches:
  • Reconciliation of HL7 formats from various sending/receiving modules 
  • Simple browser-based screens for interface management
  • Handling of TCP/IP, web services, FTP and file-based protocols 
  • Conversion between HL7 and other data formats
  • Storage of data in SQL DB, with message editor that allows for viewing, downloading, tabulation and re-transmission of messages

See our HL7 Solutions for more information.

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