Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Unanswered Question

Where does a newbie go to get more information about HL7?

That's a question I get about 5 times a month, and which I'm sure many HL7 members and staff get over and over again.  The person asking the question isn't asking about where to find the HL7 web site.  I've never been able to satisfactorily answer that question, and I recently discovered why.  The reason is that the answer varies depending on who is asking it.

The dialogue usually goes like this:

Q: Where do I go to find out more about HL7?
Me: Well, what are you trying to do?
Q: I'm a _____, and we do _____, and I'm presently trying to ____ so where should I go?

Fill in the first blank with:

  • Software Developer
  • System Architect
  • Physician
  • Nurse
  • Public Health Official
  • Informatician
  • Insurer
  • Pharmaceutical Executive
  • Executive at a Hospital
  • Executive at a Vendor Organization
  • Consultant
  • Student
  • Government Official
  • Researcher
  • et cetera
Fill in the second blank with:
  • Make EHR Systems
  • Make Radiology Systems
  • Make Immunization Information Systems
  • Make Patient Monitors
  • Make Personal Health Records
  • Make Health Information Exchange Systems
  • Make Patient Registration Systems
  • Make ePrescribing Systems
  • Make Master Patient Index Systems
  • Make Medical Devices
  • Generate Clinical Guidelines
  • Create Quality Measures
  • Use (any of the above)
  • Integrate (any of the above)
  • Make Drugs
  • Regulate (any of the above)
Then fill in the next blank with any of the following:
  • Integrate with (any of the previous)
  • Comply with Regulation
  • Develop a new system to do something useful
  • Understand how I can use ____ HL7 Standard
  • Help to develop ____ HL7 Standard
  • Find out more about ____ HL7 Standard
Depending on how they fill in the blanks, the answer varies.  Most of the answers can be resolved in a few clicks from the HL7 Web Site.  Understanding the highway system (the questions to answer), maybe now we can start building the map.



  1. This looks like an outline for an actual navigation tool that a lot of people could use.

    1. Bingo. That's what I mean when I said now I could draw the map having understood what the highway system needs to look like.

  2. Nice idea... this has the potential to evolve into a very effective tool.

    I'd suggest that you ensure that it can collect statistics on which highway paths are most traveled.

    Is it your intent to limit this only to navigating into the HL7 site? In a couple months I hope to go live with a web site that might be a good "answer" to a particular subset of the answers to your "fill in the blanks question".

    In terms of the substance... I'd add to the second column any kind of healthcare application (or application that potentially could be a healthcare application): mobile personal health apps, clinical communication apps, analytics application, etc. Any software project where someone is potentially interested in integrating with the "established network of healthcare information" (or just figuring out what some of the challenges and opportunities are in doing so).

    Also, over time as each of the three lists (of "fill in the blanks options") grows, I think there might be value in organizing them hierarchically, so that users can start high level and then drill-down and get very specific about what they are trying to achieve or are interested in exploring... this way you can guide to very specific standards and resources.

    Good luck with this project and let me know if/how I can help you with it...