The HL7 approach to semantic interoperability

In Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Biomedical Ontology. CEUR, vol. 833. pp. 139-146 (2011)
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Health Level 7 (HL7) is an international standards development organisation in the domain of healthcare information technology. Initially the mission of HL7 was to enable data exchange via the creation of syntactic standards which supported point-to-point messaging. Currently HL7 sees its mission as one of creating standards for semantic interoperability in healthcare IT on the basis of its flagship “version 3” (v3). Unfortunately, v3 has been plagued by quality and consistency issues, and it has not been able to keep pace with recent developments either in semantics and ontology or in computer science and engineering. HL7’s response has been to develop its “Services-Aware Interoperability Framework” (SAIF), which is intended to provide a foundation for work on all aspects of standardization in HL7 henceforth. We here summarise the major design principles that must be satisfied by a semantic interoperability framework – principles relating both to static semantics and to computational behaviour. We then assess the SAIF in light of these principles. We conclude that the SAIF is not in a position to support the needed reform of the HL7 v3 family of standards.
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