An Introduction to HL7 Messages

HL7 or Health-Level 7 refers to a standard-setting organization that deals in transfer of electronic health records.  This organization offers certifications and complies with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and Open Systems Interconnection.

HL7 aims to provide everyone access to their medical records online. This is a step forward to digitalizing medical records to benefit patients and doctors. Let’s look at what HL7 messaging looks like.

Types of HL7 Messages

Within HL7, different types of messages are used to transmit information. The top ones are:

  • ACK: This is an abbreviated form of acknowledgement message. This usually prompts to confirm that the required updates or mandates are complete.
  • ADT: This is an abbreviated form of admit discharge transfer. From the full form, it is apparent that this deals with information pertaining to a patient’s admission, discharge, or transfer.
  • BAR: This is an abbreviated form of billing account details. This type deals with the information pertaining to bills and payments.
  • BPS: This is an abbreviated form of blood product dispense. This deals with information pertaining to a patient’s blood and requirement.
  • OMD: This stands for dietary order. This pertains to information about a patient’s diet including what he or she should eat and what should be avoided.
  • ORM: The stands for orders. This deals with information that informs the different involved parties about a requirement that a patient has. For instance, medicines, etc.

There is an extensive list of HL7 messaging which can be accessed from the Appendix A of the HL7 guide. In simple term, each message type has three alphabets which convey a type of message as mentioned above. In actual world, when the messages are transmitted, these are followed by a trigger event which has a significance. The trigger event is a combination of alphabets and numbers. So, an HL7 message might look something like ADT-D10.


Now, the details above might leave you wondering what if the information that needs to be added does not fit in the code. In that case, HL7 offers a z segment which takes care of the miscellaneous information which does not fit in a standard and code.

Certification Process for HL7

If you are an individual wanting to be certified by HL7, you can take a test. The test can be taken from registered centres by paying a fee which is different for members and non-members. If a company wants to be certified, then that can be done by obtaining HL7 standards under licenses.

In the past few years, HL7 has emerged as a strong player by streamlining and standardizing the practices and protocols. HL7 does not only develop standards, but also help in proving direction for its implementation. The success has been possible because different reputed organizations have benefitted from HL7. It does not limit the opportunities to renowned organizations but welcomes individuals, professional, and all types of organization to become a member and benefit from the latest that IT has to offer when it comes to improving healthcare and benefitting all.

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About the Author: Vijay Aegis

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