HL7 Hardsells Info System Standard To Health Ministry

Bangalore: | Updated: Jul 31 2002, 05:30am hrs
The Indian arm of Health Level Seven Inc (HL7) has initiated talks with the Union health ministry to pronounce HL7 as the mandatory standard for healthcare data informatics interchange in all Hospital Information Systems (HIS) being implemented in hospitals across the country.

By making HL7 a standard, it would be possible for two different HIS solutions made by two differnt vendors to interact, making it possible for hospitals to share data for research and other allied matters. By making HIS systems talk to one another, it would also be easier to collect medical and administrative data.

“HL7 is the most widely recognised standard for data informatics interchange in the healthcare industry. In India, HIS implementations have just begun, and this is the right time that a standard be made mandatory,” Dr Saji Salam, chair, HL7 India told eFE.

According to Wipro Limited vice-chairman and Wipro Healthcare and Life Science CEO DA Prasanna only five per cent of the 55,000 hospitals in India have started the process of implementing HIS.

Asia Heart Foundation vice-chairman Dr Alok Roy said, “The HIS solutions are being implemented by large private and corporate hospitals in India. More than the government, we are of the opinion that it is these people that need to be told of such a standard. Government hospitals are far away from the picture of HIS, at least as of now.” Dr Salam and Dr Roy are members of CII’s National Healthcare Task Force also.

Several healthcare informatics data interchange standards have evolved during the course of the last few years. Among them, Health Level Seven (HL7) is considered to be the most recognised standard worldwide.

Developed at the University of Pennsylvania in 1987, the term “Level Seven” refers to the seventh, also the highest, level of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model of the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

“There is lack of awareness among most of the Indian software firms in this sector on HL7. HL7 has evolved as the de facto standard in most of the countries such as the United states, Germany, Holland and Australia,” Dr Salam said, adding “In fact, the German government has recently announced that all the HIS Systems being implemented in their country need to be HL7 complaint. Some other governments are also in the process of announcing the same.”

According to GE Medical Systems IT Pvt Limited (GEMS IT) CEO and MD Vishweshwar Konda, “Many of the Indian firms are not aware of the standard and hence their products’ data information application do not comply with the standard. However, this situation is slowly changing.”

Quoting from a Gartner report Dr Salam said, “The US healthcare informatics market today is worth $40 billion and would touch $60 billion by 2004. This clearly shows that there is big commercial potential for Indian companies and they would not be able to get any of that huge pie if they fail to equip themselves with the standard. There are larger markets outside the US too,” he added.

According to Dr Salam, none of the India-based software firms involved in the healthcare business have a HL7 certified professional. “Covansys does have some HL7 certified professionals, but they are all US-based.”