In this article, we’ll cover the basics of CCD. A CCD is a Continuity of Care Document. Health entities use CCDs to send health information about patients to each other.

Other terms related to CCDs that we’ll cover include: HL7 and Mirth appliance. We’ll talk about what these terms mean, how they’re related to CCDs, and what the function of each is.

If you consider yourself a “non-techie,” but want to learn more about CCDs, this is the article for you.

The Basics of CCD

Anytime we want to communicate with another person, the first step is to find a language we both understand, and if we don’t speak the same language, we need a translator or a common language.

CCDs are used to exchange data between health entities, but there has to be some sort of standard defining the specs for a CCD. That’s where HL7 comes in.

What is HL7?

In the world of health data exchange, HL7 is a method of translating, or helping people speak the same common language.

HL7 is an agreed upon standard way to communicate between entities that provide healthcare and who don’t necessarily use the same healthcare nomenclature.

If a public health agency collects data about you and a hospital collects data about you, they both collect some common information. They each also collect information that is unique to the services and care they provide you. Even when the services and care are similar, they may each talk about them using different languages/terminologies

What does HL7 do?

HL7 specifies how information is exchanged, and the file formats for healthcare information.

For example, there are HL7 specs for:

  • Admission Records
  • Discharge Summary
  • Continuity of Care Document (CCD)

HL7 gives instructions on how to share information about a client’s health, and the care provided, between the hospital and the public health agency.

For example, HL7 may specify to “put all a client’s medications here on a CCD.” This allows public health clinicians and hospital clinicians to look at a CCD and find the information they want in a place they expect it.

What does the CCD do?

A CCD is often electronic, meaning it’s a file of non-human readable information that is not very pretty, but is easy for computers to read.

For people, this information can be put into an easy to read format like a PDF. A CCD can be generated for a client in a PDF.

How does the CCD get where it needs to go?

Now you know the CCD is the electronic file holding all the patient information and HL7 defines the specs of how that information appears in the CCD, but you may still wonder how the CCD gets where it needs to go.

A Mirth appliance does the job of getting the CCD where it should go. But, it does more than just deliver messages, it also helps get through to other places that have unique “doorways.”

Some places you may want to send data might only accept it through a TCP/IP protocol, or a Web Service. This is where the Mirth appliance comes in. Mirth:

  • Takes the data and gets it through those doorways.
  • Manages the messages going back and forth

Imagine 835 messages, Immunization records, CCDs, all being sent to you at the same time from lots of other places. Mirth is like a security guard that’s on duty all the time. Mirth:

  • Watches the messages
  • Ensures they are formatted correctly
  • Checks for security credentials to see if they should get through our door
  • Keeps them all in line

What’s Next:

Now that you know a little more about CCDs, HL7, and Mirth, if you’d like to read more about health information exchange, you can do that here: A Basic Overview of Health Information Exchange.