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HL7 Backgrounder Brief

HL7: The Global Authority on Healthcare Interoperability

HL7 doesn't provide patient care. We make caring for patients safer.

HL7 doesn't write software. We make writing software more intuitive.

HL7 doesn't do clinical research. We make clinical research more effective.

HL7 doesn't pay for healthcare. We make paying for healthcare less costly.

Founded in 1987, Health Level Seven® (HL7) International is a non-profit, ANSI-accredited standards development organization with members in more than 50 countries and is the global authority on interoperability for healthcare information technology.

More than just a set of standards for data messaging, HL7 is a family of technologies that provides a universal common framework for interoperability of healthcare data. By helping make healthcare IT systems interoperable, HL7 makes providers and organizations across the healthcare continuum more successful at achieving their goals.

With more than 4,000 members worldwide, HL7 represents hundreds of healthcare vendors, providers, payers, government agencies, consultants and others. In the U.S. alone, 90 percent of the largest health information system vendors are HL7 members. HL7 standards are developed through the commitment and hard work of thousands of volunteers around the world.

In the U.S., the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has defined criteria for showing "meaningful use" of an EHR-a requirement for receiving government financial incentives-as including the exchange of electronic data based on HL7 standards. Several HL7 standards are referenced in federal regulations.

HL7 standards and selected IP (intellectual property) are freely available under licensing terms. HL7 aims to increase human health and wellness by improving healthcare delivery on a global scale by making our framework easier to adopt, implement, and use.

What Does the Name HL7 Mean?

"Level Seven" refers to the highest level of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) communications model for Open Systems Interconnection (OSI)-the application level, which includes data exchange structuring.

About HL7 Standards


Designed with a focus on simplicity and ease of implementation, Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard combines the best features of existing HL7 standards with the latest web technologies to make interoperable healthcare applications dramatically simpler, easier, and faster to develop. With a wide range of potential applications, including mobile, social, cloud-based, and enterprise, and offering a strong evolutionary path for applications based on earlier HL7 standards, FHIR is drawing interest and attention across the healthcare industry.

HL7 Version 2

HL7 Version 2 is well established as the premier messaging standard for the exchange of patient care and clinical information worldwide. In 2009, it was published as an ISO standard. In the U.S., the HL7 Version 2 messaging standard is deployed at most healthcare facilities.


The HL7 Clinical Document Architecture (CDA) is an ISO approved standard that provides an exchange model for clinical documents (such as discharge summaries and progress notes) that brings the healthcare industry closer to the realization of an electronic medical record.

There are large-scale CDA implementations in North and South America, Europe and Asia Pacific. The Continuity of Care Document (CCD®) is a CDA implementation of the continuity of care record (CCR), created by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

The Consolidated CDA (C-CDA®) is an implementation guide developed for a meaningful use regulation that consolidates nine previous CDA templates into one.

EHR/PHR System Functional Models

The EHR System Functional Model helps lay the groundwork for nationwide interoperability by providing common language parameters that can be used in developing systems that support electronic records. The HL7 EHR-S FM helps guide providers in planning, acquiring, and transitioning to electronic systems, and facilitates a more effective dialogue between providers and vendors.

The HL7 Personal Health Record System Functional Model, a draft standard, identifies the functions that should be included in a PHR and includes guidelines for data exchange between PHRs and EHRs.

Other HL7 Standards

• Arden Syntax

• Claims Attachments

• Clinical Context Management (CCOW)

• Clinical Genomics: Genetic Variation Model

• Clinical Genomics: Pedigree Model

• Common Terminology Services (CTS)

• Decision Support Service Functional Model (SOA standard)


• Health Quality Measure Format (HQMF)

• HL7 Version 3

• Infobutton – Context Aware Retrieval

• Quality Reporting Document Architecture (QRDA)

• Retrieve, Located, Update Service Functional Model (SOA standard)

• Reference Information Model (RIM)

• Services Aware Interoperability Framework (SAIF)

• Structured Product Labeling (SPL)

Click here to see the complete list of HL7 standards.

How is HL7 International Organized?

The organization is managed by a Board of Directors, which is comprised of both elected and appointed positions. Executive leadership also includes a Chief Executive Officer and a Chief Technology Officer. The organization is comprised of work groups that are responsible for defining the HL7 standard protocols.

Each work group is chaired by two or more co-chairs. Work groups are organized into four functional groups called steering divisions. Each steering division elects two representatives to serve on the Technical Steering Committee (TSC). This committee is also comprised of two representatives from the HL7 affiliates, and an Architectural review Board representative. The TSC votes on technical issues related to the standards.

HL7 convenes three working group meetings per year, which allows HL7 members to work on the standards face-to-face. They provide an invaluable educational resource for the healthcare IT community, offering a variety of tutorials as well as HL7 certification testing. HL7 holds three FHIR Institutes and Meaningful Use Implementation Workshops per year where attendees get hands-on experience with HL7 standards. Certification testing is also offered. HL7 also offers educational webinars as well as on-site and virtual classroom training.

There are more than 30 HL7 affiliates around the globe, including Asia-Pacific, Europe and South America. Click here for a complete list of affiliates.

Collaboration with Other SDOs

To avoid redundancy in standards creation and work products and to facilitate open communication throughout the industry, HL7 has established formal agreements with numerous organizations.

HL7 is a founding member of the Joint Initiative Council, an international organization on global health informatics standardization that is committed to developing a single standard for a single purpose.

HL7 also has an agreement with the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) through which HL7 submits its ANSI-approved standards or draft standards for trial use (DSTUs) directly to ISO for approval.

Finally, HL7 is a founding member of the SDO Charter Organization (SCO), a formal collaboration among SDOs which aims to facilitate the creation of industry-wide, interoperable standards that will support meaningful improvements in healthcare outcomes.