The Collaborative Centre for eHealth and the Australian Healthcare Messaging Laboratory

Introduction

Opened in 2000 by the Vice Chancellor of Ballarat University, the Collaborative Centre for eHealth (CCeH) was established to advance the quality of healthcare information systems integration in both Australia and around the globe.

The CCeH is located in the University of Ballarat’s Technology Park, a modern university campus hosting offices for several IT companies servicing the health sector, including IBM and GE Healthcare Technologies.

The Australian Healthcare Messaging Laboratory

CCeH is best known as the organisation behind the establishment of the Australian Healthcare Messaging Laboratory (AHML). Secure clinical messaging is a complex area that presents a wide array of regulatory, privacy and technical issues. The inability for the creators of transportable electronic health data to harmonise the formatting of such data remains one of the biggest impediments to widespread secure electronic messaging in Australia. The AHML seeks to assist software developers to address these technical issues through its message testing and software certification services, each of which are discussed in more detail below:

HL7 Message Testing Facility

The facility allows clinical and messaging software vendors to test the quality of their Health Level 7 (HL7) messages against various international and Australian iterations of the HL7 version 2 standard. Endorsed by the National e-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) for the short to medium term, HL7 v2 is widely used in Australia for secure clinical messaging.

The AHML service is virtual in nature and is accessed via the Internet, either via a graphical web user interface or using HTTP commands.

After registering, users are able to select a HL7 profile and upload a HL7 message to the system for testing against this profile. Within a matter of seconds, a report on the quality of the message is generated and displayed for the consideration of the user. The report highlights areas of non-conformance, errors, warnings and alerts, referencing the relevant part of the HL7 standard that has been breached to assist the user to address any issues.

The AHML does not charge setup or per message charges, and access to the testing facility is available to both Australian and international users.

To date, the facility boasts over 380 registered users hailing from over 30 different countries. Unique globally, the AHML message testing engine has proven particularly popular in the United States, Britain, Europe and India.

For reasons of merit or otherwise, there is an increasing global interest in the XML based HL7 version 3 family of formats. While AHML does not currently provide testing routines for HL7 v3 messages, this significant undertaking is currently under consideration.

Software Certification Services

Beyond its online message testing facility, AHML also provides software certification for products that generate or manipulate HL7 messages. After testing a product’s HL7 capabilities, a certification officer works with the software vendor to address any non-conformance issues.

AHML certification services can be used by individuals and organisations involved in the development and implementation of software within the healthcare arena who wish to guarantee that their HL7 messages are compliant with the HL7 standards.

Among others, AHML certification clients can include those from the following sectors:

Software industry developers requiring certification of conformance to recognised standards of messaging functionality in their products. Government Departments and Agencies developing software systems that communicate with other parties in the healthcare system.

Private and public healthcare organisations requiring certification that messaging implementations conform to specified standards.

According to Chris Lynton-Moll, Manager and Executive Director of AHML, certification can deliver significant benefits for organisations that complete the process.

“Certification is for those organisations wishing to pass on the extra assurance to their customers that the messages generated or manipulated by their software can be relied upon. Your business partners will know that you can communicate with one another according to Standards and you competitors will be aware that you are serious about healthcare messaging.”

NATA Accreditation

The AHML is accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA), an Australian Government endorsed provider of accreditation services for laboratories and testing facilities. Every three years, independent assessors from NATA conduct a 2 day accreditation visit to ensure compliance with both ISO 17025 and NATA standards.

Because of the AHML’s accreditation by NATA, software vendors who obtain AHML certification can display both the AHML logo and the mark of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation / Multilateral Recognition Agreement (ILAC MRA). The ILAC MRA mark affords global recognition to organisations that attain the qualification, allowing organisations to be compared to their international peers.

Other CCeH Services

CCeH is largely self-funded, receiving proceeds from consulting, tenders and research grants. CCeH also offers training courses in HL7 messaging, and has recently been engaged by HL7 Australia to run a series of HL7 training courses and workshops around the country. Sessions have already been held in Melbourne and Brisbane, with the CCeH staff scheduled to visit Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart later in the year.

Currently, CCeH is commencing a project with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR) to develop Best Practice Report Templates, as well as some further work for DHS Victoria on their SCTT referral project.

CCeH has also entered into a partnership with CAL2CAL Corporation in Los Angeles, California, to establish, develop and promote healthcare applications to the Australian and United States healthcare systems.

The CCeH Team

CCeH is staffed by a core team of four, with contractors engaged on short term contracts when expanded work programs require additional staffing capacity.

The running of CCeH is overseen by Chris Lynton-Moll, Manager and Executive Director of AHML. Prior to assuming his current role in 2002, Chris worked as a Chief Scientist for a pathology group, and more recently as the CIO of the Royal Hobart Hospital.

Programming duties are undertaken by Senior Software Engineer, Jane Gilbert, and Programmer, Evan Dekker. In her roles as a Project Officer and Quality Manager, Priscilla Clark is primarily responsible for maintaining the preparedness of AHML for accreditation by NATA.

References

  1. ISO 17025 (General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories). Available at http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail?csnumber=39883 [Accessed on 1/2/2008].

Posted in Australian eHealth

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