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Nutrition Informatics Blog



Drinking the HL7 Kool-Aid

Submitted by Amy Buehrle Light, RD, LDN: I have been aware of HL7 (Health Level 7) for 20 years or so, having worked with nutrition and food-service management systems that use HL7 standards to interface to electronic health records. During the past couple of years, I have learned much more about it while serving on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Nutrition Informatics Subcommittee for Interoperability and Standards. But only now, as I finish up my first HL7 Working Group meeting, can I say that “I’ve drunk the HL7 Kool-Aid.”

A quick introduction to HL7

HL7 is an international organization (55 countries and growing) that develops consensus-driven standards for how to exchange data in health care. If two or more electronic health systems “talk to” each other, HL7 is the likely standard or format used to share data.

Why should RDs care about what HL7 is doing?

HL7 is the gold standard for how health care data is handled, including data that we enter and use to care for our patients. Diet orders, supplements, allergies, snacks, preferences, nutrition consults, care plans, quality measures, and transition of care documents are all affected by HL7.

Hard work is paying off

Thanks to a core group of very determined and hard-working informatics RDs that have gone before me, along with the support of the Academy, we are making significant inroads in shaping HL7 standards. As I have witnessed this week, this has not gone unnoticed in the HL7 community. It is very amazing to sit side by side with health professionals and information technology specialists from Australia, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, and many other countries to sort out the best way to share nutrition-related information.

The value of our involvement was more formally acknowledged this week, with Elaine Ayres presenting our contributions to the newly formed Mobile Health Work Group at the “Birds of a Feather” Open Space session. How gratifying it was to see our profession get some well-deserved kudos!

Having a seat at the HL7 table is making a difference. Does your organization utilize HL7? If so, pull up a chair.

Add a Comment
Comments (2):
2/6/2013 5:59:40 PM by stephanie perez

Unfortunately, my organization if doing a 'home-made' version of the ehr, and I have been and I am getting more and more nervous that I will miss something or not set up the system correctly to allow the proper NCP to take place. I think it is a huge responsibility to design something like that and I am so tempted to say 'find someone that can do it', but then I probably would not have my job anymore. How can I assure that I am taking the right steps in the process?

4/3/2013 5:37:57 PM by Pam Charney

Stephanie, This isn't something that you'll be able to learn on the job, although I commend you for making a valiant attempt. Chances are that nursing, physicians and others have all brought in consultants to assist, so you need to make that request.

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