HealthLink celebrates 25th anniversary

Australasia’s largest health IT network, HealthLink, celebrated its 25th anniversary with an evening celebration at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

More than 150 people – including many of New Zealand’s Who’s Who in health IT – gathered at the iconic building this month to acknowledge HealthLink’s unparalleled contribution to Health IT in New Zealand and Australia.

Guests were officially welcomed to the museum with a powhiri, performed by the museum’s resident traditional Maori performing group, Haka the Legend. The group performed songs and dances and finished with a spine-tingling haka.

Tom Bowden farewelled

The quarter century celebration was also a chance to farewell HealthLink co-founder Tom Bowden, who stepped down from the role of CEO at the end of last year.

HealthLink started up in 1993 when “The HealthLink Service” was launched by a subsidiary of Telecom New Zealand. It began delivering pathology results to 100 general practices.

New HealthLink CEO Michelle Creighton acknowledged Tom’s pioneering spirit, determination and hard work in getting HealthLink off the ground and to the place it is today, as well as the hard work of everyone in the HealthLink team.

In his farewell speech, Tom talked about the importance of unifying the health system.

“It’s been exhilarating… innovation is about hard work… I’ve always viewed a problem as a learning opportunity.”

Tom said he was excited about his new role as an independent consultant.

HealthLink focussed on looking forward

Michelle said the evening was about celebrating HealthLink’s incredible history, but also about looking forward to the next 25 years.

“Twenty-five years doesn’t happen by accident,” she said.

She also acknowledged Irish global healthcare technology specialist Clanwilliam Group, which took a majority shareholding in HealthLink in 2017. Clanwilliam Group CEO Howard Beggs sent a congratulatory message via video link.

Other speakers included NZHIT board chair and director of digital health at Deloitte, Kate Reid, Dr Di Davis, HealthPathways and eReferral clinical leader at Northland DHB and Ministry of Health deputy director-general data and digital, Shayne Hunter, who said, “HealthLink, you’ve done an amazing job. I honestly don’t think New Zealand would be where it is today if we didn’t have HealthLink.”

RNZCGP medical director Richard Medlicott described HealthLink as having been, “a really important glue in the New Zealand health system for a long time”.

Several messages of congratulations were also read out from people unable to attend in person.

Michelle said HealthLink was looking forward to its next chapter.

“It’s about working collaboratively across organisations to improve outcomes for patients. Technology may change, but HealthLink’s goals don’t.”


Background information:

HealthLink: A market leading health-system integrator in New Zealand and Australia. Nearly all secure clinical communications used in New Zealand are shared through HealthLink and it’s the largest provider of secure clinical messaging services in Australia.

Clanwilliam Group: Clanwilliam Group is an expanding family of businesses committed to healthcare technology and services. Its rapid growth is due to its unique mergers and acquisitions philosophy and support for entrepreneurial spirit. The group’s companies run from global offices and their products and services help healthcare professionals deliver safe, more efficient and better-quality care to millions of patients worldwide.

For media assistance, contact:

Maggie McNaughton
HealthLink publicist
021 613198
[email protected]

Farewell fax machine: E-Referrals have taken over NZ’s biggest city

The fax machine is almost truly dead in New Zealand’s largest city with almost all patient referrals from primary to secondary care being sent electronically.

Auckland, which has a population of 1.6 million people, is leading the world when it comes to adopting the ground-breaking technology.

The city’s journey to its paperless referral system began in 2012 when Australasia’s largest health IT network, HealthLink, developed CareConnect e-Referrals for the Waitemata, Counties Manukau and Auckland District Health Boards.

HealthLink’s New Zealand national manager, Eric van der Sluis, says e-Referrals improve the transfer of information between primary and secondary care in several crucial ways.

“Fax machines are slow, clunky and unreliable. Faxed referrals can go missing, the patient information is not secure and there’s often incomplete information, which can lead to errors,” Eric says.

The e-Referral system is secure and has been designed from the ground up to protect private healthcare information.

“All clinical information is encrypted and protected with digital certificate-based system authentication.”
Eric says the system is easy to set up.

“For GPs, specialists or allied health workers with a HealthLink-compliant Practice Management System, integration and set up is incredibly simple. It’s even remotely switched on and configured by HealthLink. For other users, the web-based HealthLink Workplace solution can be used to independently send and receive e-Referrals securely.”

GP describes e-Referrals as game changer

Dr Jim Kreichbaum works as a GP at Mt Wellington Family Health Centre in South Auckland, which he established in 1993. He also works part-time at Auckland District Health Board as Primary Care Director Cardiovascular, Adult Medicine, Community and Long-Term Conditions Directorates.

Jim says moving from a paper-based referral system to e-Referrals has been a game changer.

“At the DHB end, the quality of the referrals coming in has increased substantially with more detailed information enabling the specialist to make a better decision about the patient’s care.”

Not only is the quality of patient information better, e-Referrals are more secure than faxed or posted referrals, which often go missing or have incomplete information, he says.

“E-Referrals also mean that patients are more likely to be seen in a timely manner.”
Jim says he can’t highlight enough the advantage of being able to receive specialist advice via the e-referral system.

“As a GP you can message a specialist with questions or advice about a patient and they get back to you the next day, or even the same day. The specialist might even advise you the patient doesn’t need to come in for an appointment.”

He says the ability to get advice from the specialist can save time for both the patient and specialist by avoiding unnecessary appointments.

“It’s so much better for patient care,” he says.

The e-Referral system automatically pre-populates the patient information from the PMS, meaning the GP doesn’t have to fill-in all the information and the risk of mistakes being made or information being left out is reduced.

Once the e-Referral has been sent, the GP gets an instant message saying it’s been received by the DHB. The GP then gets a prompt response as to whether the e-Referral has been accepted or not.

“I would recommend e-Referrals. They are so much better than paper-based referrals on so many counts. It’s a no-brainer to make the switch.”

Transformation of communication between services

Dr Helen Liley agrees. She is a GP in South Auckland, a GP Liaison for Counties Manukau District Health Board, Clinical Director of POAC (Primary Options for Acute Care) and Lead Clinical Editor for Auckland Regional HealthPathways.

E-Referrals, she says, have transformed communication between primary and secondary care. If e-Referrals are available, she doesn’t know why GPs wouldn’t use them.

“E-referrals take two clicks of the mouse and the e-Referral form opens. It automatically fills in information for you from the PMS, it often prompts you for information pertinent to your specific referral and you can pull across clinical notes into a free text box to give extra information so you don’t have to re-write them. They are intuitive and easy to use,” she says.

For Dr Liley, receiving immediate confirmation once the e-Referral has been received is incredibly reassuring.

“I know straight away it’s been received. I can also track the progress of the e-Referral to see where it is in the system.

“In the days of faxed referrals, I was always concerned they would go missing or end up at the wrong address; there was never an immediate acknowledgement that they had been received in the correct place.

“The absolute worst thing is if everybody thinks something is happening for a patient but actually nothing is happening because their referral got lost.”
E-Referrals also have an addendum function, allowing additional notes to be added after it’s been sent, if needed.

“This is really helpful if you’ve forgotten to add something or you get test results or other information in after the e-Referral has been sent. It saves a lot of time,” she says.

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Sydney e-referral pilot opens door to all NSW public hospitals

A group of Sydney GPs are the first in NSW to pilot an e-referral system with Sydney Local Health District.

The pilot initially allows 32 GP clinics to replace old style fax referrals with HealthLink’s SmartForms to refer patients to haematology departments at the Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) and Concord Hospital.

 “The e-referral is synchronously delivered into the public health system, meaning no more no lost referrals, no delays due to postage or illegibility or mishandling of the referral in transit. This makes it safer and faster for the patient,” says Jean-Christophe Meunier, eHealth Manager, Hospitals and Health Services at HealthLink.

“This is a very exciting development for not only Sydney Local Health District and its clinicians, but also for Sydney GPs who refer their patients into Sydney’s public hospital system,” says Paul Bennett, Program Manager, HealthPathways,Sydney LHD.

GPs in the pilot group are using a specific e-referral from the HealthLink SmartForms interface that is widely integrated across the popular practice management software (PMS) systems, Best Practice and Medical Director. The integration is totally secure, standardised and professional, offering the pre-population of all relevant patient data from the GP’s PMS, as well as delivering the fastest transfer of care possible.

Practice manager, Penny Mills, of Leichhardt General Practice, has been involved in the pilot from the start, and relishes the prospect of specialists in all hospitals using SmartForms.

She says there are three attributes that make the e-referral platform a winner: ease of use, fast real time processing, and added security, all of which “combines to improve the quality of patient care”. It’s also far less messy than using faxes, she says.

An additional mandatory part of the referral pathway makes it possible for the hospitals to send secure electronic status updates back to GPs to advise that the referral has been either accepted or denied. This dedicated GP to specialist communication channel for each patient referred allows for quicker referral acknowledgement, acceptance and updating.

Ms Mills says: “The very first patient we referred needed palliative care and was rejected by the specialist we referred to. That was a good result because the doctor could immediately look at an alternative pathway for the patient.”

Mr Meunier agrees: “GPs will be relieved that all of this communication can be channelled back into their existing secure messaging-receiving workflows, and then filed into their patient record.”

“SmartForms are easy to implement, and I believe the pilot will pave the way for broader use by GPs here in Sydney, and into other NSW Local Health Districts,” Mr Meunier says.

Mr Bennett says the pilot offers an opportunity to extend the electronic referral pathway to over 200 GP practices and to other Sydney Local Health District outpatient clinics.

“We trust this will be the start of a successful patient transfer process across the district using the professional approach and sheer scale of HealthLink, Australia’s largest Health IT network provider.”

He says the Sydney Local Health District pilot is an example of innovative collaboration including Strata Health’s PRISM Referral Management System that enables a compliant and synchronous communication with HealthLink’s SmartForms and secure messaging system, and Central and Eastern Sydney PHN, which is providing project resources and technical support through its digital health team.


For more information please contact:

Jean-Christophe Meunier

eHealth Manager, Hospitals and Health Services at HealthLink

M 0437 681 688
P 02 8014 7614
[email protected]

About Sydney Local Health District
Sydney Local Health District is made up of hospitals, health services and a range of associated support services. A leading health district, it provides services in the hospital setting and in the community. The district is located in the centre and inner west of Sydney and is made up of the Local Government Areas of the City of Sydney (western part), Inner West Council, Canterbury-Bankstown (Canterbury part), Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield. With around 12,000 staff, the district is responsible for the health and wellbeing of more than 700,000 people living within itsboundaries, rural and remote parts of NSW and Australia and more than one million people who come into the district each day to work, study and visit.

About HealthLink
As the leading Australasian provider for the secure electronic transfer of patient information, HealthLink has been instrumental in eradicating inefficient and unreliable paper-based communication. This has resulted in powerful efficiencies in New Zealand healthcare. In Australia, HealthLink has become the largest provider of clinical messaging services, with more than 10,000 Australian medical organisations connected.

About Strata Health
Strata Health works with healthcare providers through intelligent electronic management of patient transitions into the right care, at the right time. Working with healthcare practitioners, clinicians, IT specialists and administrators, Strata Health pioneered the development of powerful software tools that have revolutionized patient flow, benefiting patients, caregivers and system efficiencies alike.

About Central and Eastern Sydney Primary Health Network
Central and Eastern Sydney PHN’s catchment spans 666.9 km2. The region stretches from Strathfield to Sutherland, as far east as Bondi, and also includes Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island. It’s the second largest of the 31 primary health networks across Australia by population, with almost 1.5 million individuals residing in the region. PHNs aim to improve coordination of care to ensure people receive the right care in the right place at the right time.

HealthLink appoints new CEO

Australasia’s largest Health IT network, HealthLink, has appointed Aucklander Michelle Creighton as its new chief executive officer.

Michelle joined HealthLink’s Auckland office in 2012 as finance manager and has previously worked as a business analyst in various information technology companies.

HealthLink is the largest provider of clinical messaging services in New Zealand and Australia.

Michelle says she’s looking forward to her new role as CEO, which she officially started on 28 November.

“It’s a great honour and responsibility to pick up the reins of the company. I’m truly excited to lead a team with the vision and dedication to keep HealthLink firmly at the forefront of the changes and opportunities in healthcare integration.

“I never lose sight of the fact that we have a serious responsibility to the health sector to maintain our core services on which the sector relies,” she says.

Michelle says she’s excited about leading HealthLink into the next stage of its journey.

“There are so many opportunities available and I see my role as an enabler, clearing the way for our teams to innovate and optimise our delivery internally and externally.

“HealthLink is the trusted name in health system integration. We seek to maintain and build on that reputation. We will do that with a focus on our core strengths and developing richer collaborative partnerships across the sector,” she says.

The 51-year-old South Aucklander says her commercial and financial background has helped her understand the need to balance great ideas with sustainability.

She says the ever-increasing availability and affordability of digital platforms is already profoundly changing health IT in New Zealand.

“There are many advances that will contribute to shape how the future unfolds, much of it still uncertain. However, in spite of all the new technologies that become available, I believe the future of Health IT will continue to be shaped through effective, successful partnerships across the sector. We plan to play a key role here.”

Spending time out of the office, making new connections and developing partnerships across the sector will be a priority for her.

“I look forward to collaborating with, and learning from, those with experience who can help us understand the problems we’re trying to solve,” she says.

“HealthLink delivers an integral and trusted component of our health system. We have an obligation to make good decisions that ensure we continue to serve the sector well, long into the future.”

She takes over the role from long time CEO Tom Bowden, who co-founded the company in 1993.

“The board members and I have enormous confidence in Michelle and I look forward to working closely with her over the next three months as I transition out of the company,” says Tom.

Tom will take up a role next April as an independent consultant to national and state government organisations seeking to design and implement e-health strategies.

Irish global healthcare technology specialist Clanwilliam Group took a majority shareholding in HealthLink in September 2017, adding to its growing family of New Zealand and Australian companies.

Howard Beggs, CEO Clanwilliam Group, says: “We look forward to this new chapter under Michelle’s very capable leadership and would like to take this opportunity to thank Tom for everything he has accomplished as founder and CEO of HealthLink.”


Background information

HealthLink: A market leading health-system integrator in New Zealand and Australia. Nearly all secure clinical communications used in New Zealand are shared through HealthLink and it is the largest provider of secure clinical messaging services in Australia.

Clanwilliam Group

Clanwilliam Group is an expanding family of businesses committed to healthcare technology and services. The group’s rapid growth is due to its unique mergers and acquisitions philosophy and support for entrepreneurial spirit. Companies run independently out of 17 global offices and their products and services help healthcare professionals deliver safer, more efficient and better-quality care to millions of patients worldwide.

For more information and to arrange an interview please contact:

Susie Hill
Publicist for Clanwilliam and HealthLink
021 815 504
[email protected]