5,000+ subscribers can't be wrong!

We'll share our best insights on how to get the most out of IGUANA.

Sign up today to receive updates twice a month:

How does HL7 work?

Whenever I travel for work, one of the most common questions I hear is “How does HL7 work?”

HL7 is not always one of the sexiest subjects, but as interoperability and connectivity continue to be huge drivers in the health care space, the questions of HL7 are going to continue to be asked.

So, after a little thought, I thought I’d create a fun – and hopefully useful – video describing what HL7 is and what it does.

5 Ways To Speed Up HL7 Integration

Think about it.  These days everyone – and their mother – are talking about EMRs and EHRs.  Well, as great at these systems may be, when it comes down to it, they’d be useless without a standard for communicating with existing health care applications and facilities.  That’s where HL7 comes it.  HL7 is not just a component of these advances in health care interoperability, but arguably one of the most important factors.  To use a web analogy, EMRs, HIS’, RIS’ and all the other systems are the equivalent to websites.  They are incredibly powerful and many people are working hard to create the most useful tools; but, just like the internet, these tools would be useless if no one was able to connect to and actually view these sites.

HL7 is what happens behinds the scenes allowing health care systems to connect and share information.

So, now that you’ve seen my latest video – How does HL7 work – and let me know what you think.  Did it make you laugh?  Do you have a better idea of what HL7 does?  Are there other topics you’d like to see discussed in a similar manner?  We’d love you hear your thoughts.


Don't miss out!

Join 5000+ subscribers in getting the best tips & advice.


Hi Art,
Well done! Well done! I applaud you for simplifying HL7 to laymans terms for others to understand.

Have a great week.

Kindest Regards,
Jan Vance


Nicely done. You’ve conveyed concepts well. I am sharing it around as you’ve done a better job explaining it than I can. Any chance you will be doing a more technical descrption of HL7 packet exchanges and security?

Happy Holidays!


” HL7 standards specify a number of flexible standards, guidelines, and methodologies by which various healthcare systems can communicate with each other.” …

up to 1:02 in the video, HL7 was completely ignored in nearly every Dr.s office in the USA. It is a answer to a question that no one is asking. What we need is a way for the PATIENT to fill out a form (HL7 does NOTHING to help that – it is a overly complicated specification that tries to boil the ocean.

We already have many many web based and PDF based forms – what we do not have is a simple easy to install and support way to use them.

Google Health’s approach of using someting far simpler -like CCR – will win in that space – as for the X-Ray,we already have DICOM. No need encumbering your use case with HL7 from my view.

This is great. You’ve covered a lot of information concisely in a way that those of us who just want a better understanding of the vocabulary can readily grasp, as well as comprehend the significance of HL-7. Thanks for sharing it.

A very good way of introducing the concept of HL7. Will make it easier for me to talk about HL7 in a simple fashion. Thanks for the effort.


I hear Michael’s frustration – however, the problem with the Dr.’s offices may have more to do with a lack of adequate infrastructure, technical resources or even EMR’s to support sharing of data – regardless of the standard used. This is changing as costs come down, ease-of-use goes up and standards evolve.

However flawed, HL7 2.x solves a lot of real world problems and has made a significant impact on increasing efficiency, reducing costs and improving patient health. It also has too big an install and user base, covering too many different areas of medicine, to be quickly replaced. Art’s video simply acknowledges its broad acceptance and helps demystify HL7 for someone starting out.

Newer standards such HL7’s CDA and ASTM’s CCR will gain traction, but we are likely to see a dual track (with HL7 2.x) for quite some time. Interesting to note that last weeks Interim Final Rule on “Meaningful Use” from DHHS appears to accept both CCD and CCR (in addition to 2.x).

Good stuff! Some people think that the HL7 is a kind of file format, or even a mix between file format and protocol. But this video makes it easy to understand what HL7 is in essence. It would be great to have something like this but with a bit more technical stuff – segments, components, sub-components, and so on. Thanks!

Hi Ben,

That article is specifically talking about version 3 of the HL7 messaging standard. Unlike version 3, which is still working out issues like the ones referred to in the article you linked to, version 2 is used extensively throughout the industry and has proven to be a incredibly useful and usable standard.


Thank Art.

This is really great. It is easy to follow and understand; and it helps people understand the key pieces and learn the terminology. It reminded me of the Schoolhouse Rock days – conjunction junction what’s your function – kind of thing. I think if you had some background music to help it move along…it would help make it ‘stick’ since I believe you want the people to learn the terminology and speak in standard language/terms going forward. Very, very nice.

Thank you.

A very good way of introducing the concept of HL7. Will make it easier for me to talk about HL7 in a simple fashion. Thanks for the effort.

good going

Nice job, Art! The picturesque depiction of the process for utilizing EMRs (website), patient data and files as the endpoint are the train cars; BUT the HL7 phenomenon as engine and cars combined drives the nail in for this concept to ROCK! Thanks also for the user-friendly additional resourse site. Keep up the great work. (I am a nursing professional learning informatics concepts here and appreciate the analogy…)

Hi, Absolutely love your HL7 videos! I’m working on a health IT education project with Stanford University Open Learning Initiative group. The course (which we’re currently updating) is freely available to the public. We’d love to include two of your HL7 videos in the course. Would you consider giving us permission to do so? (If you’d like to check out the course it’s at http://oli.stanford.edu/health-technology/)

Absolutely! You are 100% welcome and able to re-use our videos in the courses. We love helping out, with our videos and or software, so it’s our pleasure!

Add a Response

Leave a Reply