Standard data exchange format for e-health announced

Based on HL7

The national standard for electronic messaging of health information across Australia was announced today by the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA).

Currently there is a range of systems being used to exchange information that use various formats.

To ensure all systems can effectively communicate, a standard exchange format is required.

As a result, NEHTA has announced that the new format will be based on the HL7 family of standards.

NEHTA CEO, Dr Ian Reinecke, said this decision provides a clear national direction.

"Those who develop these systems now have certainty about what Australian customers will require," he said.

"Without all systems in the healthcare sector using common standards such as this, the promise of electronic health communication can't be fulfilled on a national scale."

HL7 Australia chairman, Klaus Veil, said the endorsement of HL7 is good news for the e-health community and an acknowledgement of the value and maturity of HL7 standards in a global context.

We look forward to working with NEHTA to develop the support required for industry to implement this national direction," Veil said.

To assist the IT health sector in migrating to this standard, NEHTA will release a detailed report.

NEHTA has also provided the following framework:

· Where HL7 version 2.x standards are already extensively used and yielding benefits, for example pathology and patient administration, these standards should continue to be supported. Where HL7 standards are not in use, they should be factored into system upgrades where practicable.

· NEHTA will now focus on developing Web services specifications based on work undertaken by the HL7 Services Specification Project (HSSP), and content specifications based on the HL7 Clinical Document Architecture - Release 2 (CDA R2) for areas such as referral, discharge, prescribing, dispensing and pathology.

· This work will then form the basis by which industry will migrate to HL7 version 3.

Standards Australia will support development work and to ensure standards are consistent with international efforst, NEHTA will liaise with the UK's National Health Service and Canada's Health Infoway.

Further information about HL7 standards can be found at www.hl7.org.au.

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