NEHTA sets direction for electronic messaging in health

NEHTA confirms Health Level 7 as the national standard for the electronic messaging of health information across Australia.

Across the Australian healthcare sector there are many different types of computer software and systems that are involved in the exchange of information. Currently, these systems use various exchange formats to send and receive information. To ensure that all systems across Australia have the ability to reliably and safely communicate with each other, a standard exchange format is required. The National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) has determined that this standard will be based on the HL7 family of standards.

“This decision provides a clear national direction. Those who develop these systems now have certainty about what the Australian customers of their systems will require,” said Dr Ian Reinecke, Chief Executive of NEHTA. “Without all systems in the healthcare sector using common standards such as this, the promise of electronic health communication can’t be fulfilled on a national scale.”

“The endorsement of the HL7 standards by NEHTA is good news for the Australian e-health community and an acknowledgement of the value and maturity of HL7 standards in a global context. We look forward to working with NEHTA to develop the support required for industry to implement this national direction,” said the Chairman of HL7 Australia and Board Member of HL7 globally, Mr Klaus Veil.

To assist the health IT sector to migrate to this standard, NEHTA has identified the following approach:

Where HL7 version 2.x standards are already extensively used and yielding benefits, for example pathology and patient administration, these standards should continue to be supported. Where HL7 standards are not in use, they should be factored into system upgrades where practicable.

NEHTA will now focus on developing Web services specifications based on work undertaken by the HL7 Services Specification Project (HSSP), and content specifications based on the HL7 Clinical Document Architecture – Release 2 (CDA R2) for areas such as referral, discharge, prescribing, dispensing and pathology.

This work will then form the basis by which industry will migrate to HL7 version 3.

This approach ensures that migration occurs in a consistent manner, and in conformance with NEHTA’s requirements.

“NEHTA will work closely with HL7 Australia and Standards Australia in this development work,” said Dr Reinecke. “In addition, NEHTA is closely liaising with its international counterparts – such as the UK’s National Health Service and Canada’s Health Infoway – to ensure that the specifications developed in Australia are consistent with international efforts.”

This direction is consistent with the endorsement of HL7 standards for use in Australia by the National Health Information Group in 2004. In the international community, the largest adopter of HL7 v3 standards is the Connecting for Health program run by the UK’s National Health Service; the UK, US and Canada have also adopted HL7 CDA specifications.

A report providing further details on this decision will be released shortly by NEHTA. Further information about HL7 standards can be found at