SOA, HL7 create seamless health IT interoperability
ORLANDO–Many different information exchange patterns exist between hospitals, patients, physicians, labs, imaging and more, and according to a HIMSS 2008 e-session “Service Oriented Architecture in Healthcare,” a service-oriented architecture (SOA) information fabric can help create interoperable information exchange networks with HL7.

The presentation outlined details on how SOA operates seamlessly with HL7, to achieve seamless semantic interoperability for such patterns of information exchange during an e-presentation at the 2008 HIMSS conference.

Ideally through SOA, an NSP (network service provider) facilitates information exchange within a community across an enterprise, which can be scaled to a regional or national level.

“SOA is an architectural approach that enables the creation of loosely coupled, interoperable business services that can be easily shared within and between enterprises,” the authors wrote.

The top five business and IT business needs that enterprises look to address with SOA were outlined. The business benefits include:
  • the ability to react quickly to changes in market dynamics;
  • providing intra- and inter-company business dynamics, models and processes;
  • obtaining real-time information to make decisions;
  • responding to customer service initiatives; and
  • responding to new and evolving regulatory requirements.
The IT benefits include:
  • more flexible architecture;
  • integration to existing applications;
  • data integration;
  • service integration; and
  • composite application development.
The real win of SOA integration, the authors said, is at the maintenance and change phases of integration. “If IT is left to implement rigid, point-to-point maintenance, it will be expensive to maintain. So agility becomes the primary driver for SOA business benefits.”

SOA is not to be thought of as a single, massive project. To gain a true return on investment, SOA must be thought of as multiple, incremental projects. Little by little, step by step, project by project, SOA can help healthcare enterprises to adopt health IT and EMRs.

HL7 can define the format and the content of the messages that applications must use when exchanging data with each another in various circumstances.

Recommendations for seamless semantic interoperability include an architectural approach describing how HL7 V3 content would be consumed and produced by services within an overall SOA. This includes a mapping of current V3 artifacts to the SOA approach and identification elements to be left to other protocols and technology standards. Finally, it should outline a methodology for defining services.

The presentation concluded that for an organization implementing a SOA framework, the aim of the value proposition is to produce a means to realizing the benefits of SOA using HL7 V3 content in a consisted, standardized way.