Secure HL7 Transactions using Internet Mail

This memo describes the applicability of the Internet standardization efforts on secure electronic data interchange (EDI) transactions for Health Level-7 (HL7), an EDI standard for healthcare used worldwide. This memo heavily relies on the work in progress by the IETF EDIINT working group. It is in most parts a restatement of the EDIINTs requirements document and application statement 1 (AS#1) tailored to the needs of the HL7 audience. We tried to make this document as self consistent as possible. The goal is to give to the reader who is not a security or Internet standards expert enough foundational and detail information to enable him to build communication software that complies to the Internet standards.

Even though we rely on and promote the respective Internet standards and drafts, we did not withstand from commenting on and criticising this work where we see upcoming problems in use with HL7 or other EDI protocols that have not been in the initial focus of the EDIINT working group. We make suggestions to add parameters to the specification of the MIME type for EDI messages [RFC 1767] in order to enhance functionality. We give use cases for a larger subset of disposition types and modifiers of message disposition notifications.

One key issue where this memo goes beyond the current EDIINT drafts is the concept of non-repudiation of commitment to an EDI transaction. Secure EDI transactions should be regarded as ``distributed contracts,'' i.e. not only the sending and receiving of single messages should be non-refutable but also the connection between messages interchanges. In anticipation of this requirement HL7 usually requires a response message to be sent to acknowledge every transaction. We therefore have the requirement to securely couple an EDI response message to its request message. Given the current shape of RFC 1767 this is generally possible only if a response message is coupled with an MDN receipt and the combination of both signed by the responder. This memo describes a protocol to bundle MDN and response that uses the MIME multipart/related content type [RFC 2112].

This is the final draft version 1.4 for HL7 as of 12/15/1998. PostScript, PDF, and ASCII.

This is the Ballot Reconciliation that was accepted unanimously in the HL7 meeting in Orlando (SIGSECURE, Tuesday, April 27, 1999.) With these 13 motions implemented, the document is now an official HL7 informational document and released by HL7. If you want the latest release of the HL7 document, please contact the HL7 headquater.

This is the latest version to be submitted to the IETF as draft-ietf-ediint-hl7-02, 12//1998 PostScript, PDF, and ASCII.

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