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Taking HL7 integration to the next level with API

HL7 Integration

HL7 is a data formatting standard used by healthcare providers to exchange clinical and administrative data. HL7 V2 has become the data formatting standard for most healthcare providers. One of the features of HL7 is that it can be customized in a number of different ways, which can create integration challenges. As a result, various of integration platforms or solutions have emerged that cater exclusively to HL7 healthcare integration.

But, increasingly, legacy HL7 interface engines and integration strategies are becoming obsolete. The healthcare industry is changing; not only are providers switching en masse to EHRs, but patients, providers and other stakeholders are demanding consumer-grade levels of service. Patients want immediate access to their healthcare records. Doctors want to be able to access patient portals on their mobile phones. Providers want 360-degree views of the patient to be able to glean better insights from the data. And if these needs aren’t met, our research reveals that the inability to effectively share data can have an impact on patient care and operational efficiency.

It seems that traditional HL7 integration strategies are not enough to meet the needs of modern healthcare providers; it’s important to rethink the boundaries of what systems require access to HL7 data to provide the services and applications that patients and providers now require.

Healthcare providers need to think beyond traditional HL7 integration

Traditionally, HL7 integration and data interoperability has been focused exclusively on integrating clinical applications – i.e. how do I connect one EHR to another EHR? But there is an increasing need, in healthcare settings, to use nonclinical applications that might need to access this data. These might include mobile applications for your patients or your doctors, or SaaS applications like Salesforce or Tableau. 

Delivering on these more modern types of use cases requires the transformation of HL7 messages into data formats that are foreign to most clinical systems. For example, mobile or SaaS applications expect data in formats like JSON and are not configured to work with HL7. You therefore need a different approach to HL7 integration to be able to power non-clinical systems with HL7-formatted data. MuleSoft’s approach to integration, which allows hospitals and health systems to seamlessly connect between HL7 and any other type of clinical or non-clinical message standard (such as XML or JSON), represents the next level of interoperability, expanding HL7 integration beyond clinical systems interoperability.

Clinical use cases of this new level of data interoperability could be building patient or physician portals, or developing patient-centric applications, or sharing data with partners in a way that is more easily consumable. In addition, by wrapping HL7 message feeds with RESTful APIs, healthcare organizations can scale data integration across a variety of internal external consumers, from public and private payers, to community care partners.

How APIs have taken HL7 integration to the next level

A major private health system with 7 hospitals and over 40,000 employees, physicians, and residents had a vision to improve care for their patients. The health system needed to enable clinicians and caseworkers to make more informed medical decisions at both the point of care, as well as within patients’ communities outside the clinical setting, in order to more effectively drive preventive care. The goal was to improve clinical outcomes without requiring an incremental investment in care professionals by reducing the incidence of chronic disease.

But achieving this goal required that both clinicians and caseworkers visiting patients had digital, on-demand access to comprehensive medical records and the ability to share real-time updates in order to facilitate clinical collaboration. They needed to integrate HL7 data from their EHR systems with non-clinical systems like Salesforce Health Cloud to provide a comprehensive, 360 degree patient view for clinical staff. And the health system aspired to share patient health records with hundreds of community care organizations like the Salvation Army, as well as third-party medical facilities, in order to influence patient healthcare outcomes outside the clinic.

To do this, the heath system deployed 15 FHIR APIs in four months to expose data from their Epic EHR instances to Salesforce Health Cloud––providing clinicians with the comprehensive patient view they needed to optimize care planning. By reusing the same set of APIs to expose this data to the hundreds of community organizations they partner with, they have reduced the amount of time required to interface with these community organizations by over 50%.

With its Catalyst Accelerator, MuleSoft provides a set of pre-built FHIR APIs and implementations, as well as a reference architecture, to help organizations realize similar results to this major health system.

Healthcare needs are changing and with that comes the need for a broader vision of HL7 integration. Fortunately MuleSoft makes that vision possible to achieve. Take a look at our healthcare solutions to learn more. In addition, take a look at our whitepaper on modernizing legacy systems — healthcare or otherwise — by using APIs.