New HealthLink CEO honoured to pick up reins

HealthLink’s new chief executive officer Michelle Creighton says she’s excited to be leading the organisation into the next stage of its journey.

“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,” Michelle says.

“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.”

Michelle joined HealthLink’s Auckland office in 2012 as finance manager and has previously worked as a business analyst. She took over the role of CEO from Tom Bowden at the end of last year.

She says she sees her role as an enabler, clearing the way for HealthLink to innovate and optimise 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 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, despite 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.

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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