HealthLink a new member of the clan

In a bit of late breaking news today we hear that Auckland-based secure messaging provider HealthLink has been acquired by Irish firm Clanwilliam Group, which is building itself a nice little portfolio of medical software vendors serving parts of the world with reasonably similar primary care sectors, namely Ireland, the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

The Irish government has for over 20 years supported both the IT and the pharmaceutical industries with seriously valuable tax breaks in order to attract investment into the country, but it also seems to have encouraged a thriving local industry that is producing some quality health IT firms that are now not only exporting technology but are setting up shop down our way.

In addition to Clanwilliam, which also owns a small NSW central coast firm called Medical Business Systems and New Zealand pharmacy system vendor Toniq, there are a couple of other Irish players in our market, including fellow Dublin firm Valentia Technologies. Valentia provided the technology for St John Ambulance New Zealand's electronic patient record and was then contracted to build Indici, a new cloud PMS developed for the Pinnacle Midlands Health Network's Health Care Homes model that is now being measured up as a potential replacement for Medtech32 in the Wellington region.

In acute care there is Dublin patient infotainment specialist Oneview, which is listed on the Australian stock exchange, and its Cork rival Lincor, which hoped to also list this year as part of a merger with iconic Australian brand Hills before that deal fell apart. There's also Slainte Healthcare, now rebranded as Vitro, and Belfast-based Cirdan, which owns the Ultra laboratory information system that has a good footprint in the Australian market and, we hear, is about to announce a new win.

Clanwilliam seems to take the sensible view that if you buy a profitable company you don't interfere too much with how it is running and that is its promise with HealthLink, where CEO Graham Stretch and founder Tom Bowden will continue in their roles. Mr Bowden is a well-known figure in medical software circles in Australia and New Zealand, having spotted the potential of HL7 messaging in the 1990s and building the company up to be the dominant player in secure messaging in both countries.

Tom assures us he will continue to work on the Australian Digital Health Agency's secure messaging interoperability project, where his business nous will come in handy. While there has always been quite a bit of healthy rivalry between vendors, they have been trying to work together to achieve that much-desired interoperability for a number of years and he seems confident it is achievable.

It's been a big week or two for interoperability in other sectors as well. One story that seems to have flown under the radar a bit is our yarn from last week about South Western Sydney PHN signing up to roll out the first Australian instance of Allscripts' dbMotion, with plans to use the system to extract data from the My Health Record and serve it up to GPs, and to allow hospital clinicians to view primary care data in the ED. We think this project has real legs and there are long-term plans to link it up with the integrated care projects that are increasingly springing up to bridge the gap between primary and secondary care.

We also heard in the last few weeks from DXC Technology, which has taken the interoperability bull by the horns and decided to target an opening in the global market for technology that can work with any acute care system. DXC is also launching a new mobility solution that will take data from rival clinical information systems and most legacy systems and serve them up to doctors and nurses just how they like it – on their phones or tablets in a single, easily navigable view.

Much of this is made possible through the major breakthrough that was the development of the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard by Australian standards guru Grahame Grieve. We remember first hearing about FHIR back in 2012 and it is stunning how far and how fast things have moved since then. The other major vendors are also taking up the interoperability baton and running with it, powered by FHIR. Once accused of being information blockers, the EMR giants are now moving towards being information brokers, and that can only be a good thing.

This brings us to our poll question for the week: Is FHIR the most important health IT development this decade? Sign up for our weekend edition or leave your comments below.

Our poll last week asked: Do you think the cost of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital was justified? A big no from our readers: 83 per cent say the cost isn't justified versus 17 per cent in the affirmative.

Tags: HealthLink, Indici, Clanwilliam, DXC Technology

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