Vale Bridget Kirkham
Bridget Kirkham, the inaugural CEO of the Medical Software Industry Association (MSIA), died in Sydney last week aged 65. Bridget worked tirelessly through her career championing the cause of health and healthcare in many roles.
She turned the MSIA organisation of interesting volunteer people into a collective view focused on the best outcomes for the patients while supporting an industry, innovation, and its operators. She was forthright in her conviction, but sensitive and caring in her demeanour and was concerned for the wellbeing of others, often at her own expense.
The association was much smaller when Bridget started, but through tenacity and creativity the MSIA grew to over 100 member companies within two years. Bridget working the room at conferences and vendor engagement events, to enlist a new member, a very common occurrence.
The objectives to get the MSIA “a seat at the table”, act as a clearing house of information and represent the diverse interests of so many organisations were achieved. Bridget galvanised the industry around the common themes of the “right thing to do” and “what makes sense”. The industry is full of wonderful, experienced and talented individuals whose major aim is to improve health and healthcare delivery first and foremost. You wouldn’t being doing IT if you wanted a get-rich-quick scheme.
In those days, HI Services, Medicare certificates, accreditation and SMD were beginning to hatch. An organisation called NeHTA was trying to make its way in the big wide world of eHealth. Industry and NehTA didn’t always see eye to eye; there were differences in opinion about what would be the best ways to do things and Bridget arguing what was the right thing to do to actually make a difference for clinicians and consumers.
During her time with the MSIA, the PCEHR was born to much fanfare. Bridget curated from the industry again what was the right thing to do versus what was being rolled out as policy and implementation.
Bridget was a juggernaut in combing the media, scientific papers and Hansard for a plethora of information that would be shared daily across the MSIA membership morning email. A cheeky commentary added flavour and amusement for the start of the day. A reminder that the All Blacks were playing. A reminder the All Blacks had won. A detailed country comparison of the New Zealand Olympic medal tally per population.
She was always concerned about doing the right thing. Abuse of power, spin doctoring or failure to consider the little guy and girl clearly rubbed her the wrong way. The other side of the fence was not always happy to be reminded by Bridget that they were supposed to be concerned with patient safety, appropriate use of tax payers’ money and initiatives based on evidence or at least sound reasoning.
When working with Bridget she always enquired about your wellbeing first. She was great at remembering your children’s names and was genuinely concerned about people when they were doing it tough through illness or problems in their lives. It didn’t matter what side of the table you sat on. You had to satisfy her that you were taking care of yourself and your family, otherwise she would look at ways to make your life easier and continually check in on you.
She was also great with connecting people for a joint opportunity, a shared a hobby or interest or for the simple reason that they would get on well and enjoy each other’s company.
Bridget will be sorely missed for her wonderful contribution to health and healthcare delivery, but most of all she will be deeply missed for the long-term friendship, the laughter, joy, kindness and care she has given to me, my wife and the countless others during her life. Farewell our dear friend.
Geoffrey Sayer is a past president of the MSIA.
Posted in Australian eHealth