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   Health Level 7

Health Level 7 (HL7) is an international standard for data exchange between computer systems in healthcare. It provides interoperability between electronic Patient Administration Systems (PAS), Electronic Practice Management (EPM) systems, Laboratory Information Systems (LIS), Dietary, Pharmacy and Billing systems as well as Electronic Medical Record (EMR) or Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems.

HL7 is used as a term both for the organisations involved in developing and supporting the healthcare standards as well as for the Version 2.x and Version 3 sets of standards and other standards developed by the HL7 local organisations in 30 countries. HL7 creates international standards for inter-system and inter-organisation messaging, for decision support, clinical text document mark-up, user interface integration as well as a health data model and message development methodology. HL7 is a not-for-profit, open, democratic and consensus-based organisation.

A frequent misconception about HL7 is that it develops software. In reality, HL7 develops specifications, the most widely known being a messaging standard (HL7 V2.x) that enables disparate healthcare applications to exchange clinical and administrative data.

Members of HL7 are known collectively as the Working Group, which is organized into Technical Committees and Special Interest Groups. The Technical Committees (TCs) are directly responsible for the content of the Standards. Special Interest Groups (SIGs) serve as a test bed for exploring new areas that may need coverage in HL7's published standards. A list of the technical committees and special interest groups as well as their missions, scopes and current leadership is available on the web site.

The HL7 standards can be implemented free-of-charge; there are no development or run-time licenses or fees. However, the not-for-profit HL7 organisation is always grateful for volunteer or financial support. Although distributions of the current HL7 standards attract a small fee, previous versions of the HL7 V2.x standards are freely available.

HL7 is not "plug and play". One may find HL7 transport layers (e.g. MLLP) and HL7 message and segment parsers, but using HL7 messages, segments, and fields is application-specific, and is left to the application programmer to implement.

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