HL7/EMR/Third-Party Integration

The key to extending your resources.

In today’s healthcare environment, data cannot be locked away in separate silos. The best technology makes that data available, usable, sharable across disparate systems. That’s how patients receive the best care. eRAD makes that possible.

HL7 Interface Engine

Sharing information seamlessly between systems within the healthcare ecosystem is integral to a successful enterprise workflow implementation. This is one of the many reasons eRAD devotes so much time, effort and focus to this cornerstone.

After all, a great application is only as good as the data it can share across a healthcare delivery network. eRAD uses a variety of methods to exchange data between systems (HIS/RIS/PACS/EMR/CPOE/Billing, just to name a few). We use a variety of methods and systems from HL7, API (Application Programming Interfaces), Web-Services and DMWL (DICOM Modality Worklist) to implement and manage these communications.

Because we like to share what we know, below we describe what’s behind our integration technology.

A HL7 interface engine is an interface or integration engine built specifically for the healthcare industry. It helps connect legacy technology systems by using a standard messaging protocol. Hospitals and other healthcare providers often utilize different systems to manage various service components of health care delivery. As such, they are often unable to effectively communicate with each other. HL7 gets around this issue by providing the framework to share, exchange, integrate, and retrieve l electronic health information between systems. HL7 is commonly used throughout the world.
The application of an HL7 interface engine can help health providers realize the benefits of existing legacy information systems without major re-investment(s) in new technologies. This helps healthcare professionals lower costs and extend the life and efficiencies of their legacy systems. Using a HL7 interface engine also provides an opportunity to link to systems outside the healthcare provider, such as providers of outsourced services like radiology.
HL7 interface engines are software that act as a go-between for different platforms or systems. They monitor different types of communication points and interfaces. An HL7 interface engine also can perform actions according to rules defined by the health care organization.

HL7 works with a number of standards (Application Standards, Conceptual Standards, Document Standards and Messaging Standards). Messaging standards define how information is packaged and communicated from one system or platform to another.

An (>application-programming interface (API)) is a set of commands for accessing an application or system. A software company publishes its API so that other software developers can design products that are powered by its systems and services.

An API is a software-to-software interface, not a user interface. With APIs, applications talk to each other without any user knowledge or intervention. For instance, when you buy movie tickets online and enter your credit card information, the movie ticket website uses an API to send your credit card information to a remote application that verifies whether your information is correct. Once payment is confirmed, the remote application sends a response back to the movie ticket website saying it’s approved to issue the tickets.

As a user, you only see one interface—the movie ticket website. However, behind the scenes applications are working together, sharing select pieces of information, using APIs. This type of integration is called seamless, since the user never notices when software functions are handed from one application to another. [source: TConsult, Inc.

In the world of medical imaging, APIs are often used to integrate image management systems, such as Picture Archiving Communication Systems (PACS), directly into EMR systems. This is referred to by many as “Image Enabling the EMR.”

This is a more seamless and robust method than the traditional way of sending just the results of the radiology report via HL7 to the EMR—which then could offer only a blob of text viewed in the EMR. With an API, the user gets a link to the actual images and report inserted directly into a patient’s record in the EMR.

Absent an API interface, EMR workflows might require users to collapse the EMR window, open the PACS window, enter a username/password and manually search for the patient’s exam(s). An API allows single-click access to the same information via a link inserted into the patient’s record in the EMR. The API negotiates the security in the background and retrieves both the images and report for that patient. This enables the requested information to be presented in a single view that is a very powerful combination of text and images for the user.


Third-party applications can use the eRAD API (a collection of HTTP commands) to access and modify PACS data. The commands include arguments identifying exam details such as the accession number, medical records number (MRN), patient name and date of birth, study UID, etc. Data is secure and access can be restricted as needed. These are some of the commands available in the eRAD PACS API library:

  • Search the database: Query the database for study, order and report details.
  • Edit study data: Create and modify study demographics, order information and clinical reports.
  • Launch the eRAD PACS viewer: Invoke the diagnostic and web viewers, including the tools to organize and manipulate images.
  • Retrieve report contents: Download report text, addenda, key images and other report details.
  • Download system activity logs: Request heuristic data for dashboards, summary reports and other event analysis.

In addition to image enabling EMRs as described above, eRAD PACS API can be used to integrate radiology order systems. This helps physicians to seamlessly request and send imaging requests to eRAD PACS.

Data-mining is also possible from the eRAD PACS API—as logging and statistical information is available to be used in applications such as third-party dashboards and management reporting.

Have integration questions?

We can help. Get in touch with our experienced team to customize a solution to best meet the needs of your practice or group.