journal of biomedical informatics
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Advancing HL7 v2 to New Heights: A Platform for Developing Specifications, Test Plans, and Testing Tools

Author(s): Robert Snelick

Development of HL7 v2 data exchange interface specifications has long been problematic, plagued with ambiguous and inconsistent requirement specifications. This situation leads to potential misinterpretation by implementers, thus limiting the effectiveness of the specification and creating artificial and unnecessary barriers to interoperability. Likewise, the ability to test implementations effectively for conformance to the specifications is hindered. The current approach of specification development and test plan creation relies on word processing tools, meaning implementers and testers must read and interpret the information in these documents and then translate it into machine-computable requirements and test assertions. This approach is error prone—a better methodology is needed. We present a set of productivity tools in an integrated platform that allow users to define and constrain HL7 v2 specifications and to develop test plans that result in machine-computable artifacts. A testing infrastructure and framework subsequently uses these artifacts to create conformance testing tools automatically. We present and demonstrate the utility of a platform for developing specifications, writing test plans, and creating testing tools. The value proposition of this end-to-end methodology is explained for authors writing HL7 v2 specifications, for developers implementing interfaces, and for testers creating validation tools.