To me, it's a little odd that HL7 requires you to be a member to distribute the standard within your organization and in that sense implement the standard and tell others who have implemented the standard what parts you'll be implementing, especially when it's nothing classier than a few pipes and carets for 2.x and some sort of XML for 3.0.

I can understand paying money to use a library to utilize HL7 or even the source code to build the library to utilize HL7. But what's the point of requiring membership to see the spec to write the sourcecode to build the library to utilize HL7?

  • Making this question more constructive might sound more argumentative than I want to be. Please suggest a change if you think it's necessary. I really don't know what HL7 is for incorporated for, if not primarily to make money and have conferences in exotic vistas. ANSI doesn't work this way, Microsoft and Adobe don't even work this way. – Peter Turner Feb 15 '11 at 20:01

Fair: no. Normal: pretty much. As the health care industry transitions to the HIPAA 5010 standard next year, anyone who utilizes an X12N EDI transaction will need the implementation guide to remain compliant. The publisher is charging $2500 for the guides. The previous versions were at one time free, apparently someone saw the boatloads of cash that would be made by capitalizing on a standard.

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  • 6 months (and a few thousand dollars) later. Now I'm implementing the 5010 standard in my company's product, whoopee. What's the deal with those crazy loops? – Peter Turner Jul 29 '11 at 17:12
  • Haven't had to deal with them much yet...the payers I work with can still barely figure out 4010, so I imagine they'll end up cutting it close with the 5010 deadline. – John Straka Jul 29 '11 at 18:27

The justification is that it takes cash to support the HL7 organisation, and they have to get it from their members somehow. Making that membership means they have a fairly reliable income so managing the organisation is easier (read: cheaper). I even agree with the justification to a large extent. Paying for a copy of the standard knowing that there's a significant premium in there to cover uncertainty would suck. And dealing with the DRM would suck more, because you can bet there'd be something to stop you copying a $5000 document.

Also, "a few pipes and carets for 2.x and some sort of XML for 3.0" is a bit harsh. If you think that, I suggest building your own standard that is cheaper and simpler. All you need to do is get a huge collection of health bodies and software developers to agree with you and you're good to go. Also, compared to the old style where every monkey and his dog had a go at their own EDI system, HL7 is pure brilliance. And that really is where it came from.

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This is normal for several standards organizations, including ISO. If you want an official copy of the C++ standard, it will cost you.

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