Published September 14th 2021

Background: In 2016, the journey to e-Referrals began with the National Digital Health Strategy. Now, five years later, Victoria has successfully rolled out e-Referrals statewide. We caught up with some of the PHNs who have been behind the rollout to reflect on the journey that has brought them to this successful outcome.


Bonnie Ferguson
Project Lead | Northern Health


When and why did Northern Health introduce GP e-Referrals?

Northern Health implemented e-Referrals in 2017, initially as a pilot project. That was then integrated into standard process, however, GP uptake was slow. In 2020 Northern Health observed a significant increase in GP utilisation of e-Referrals in response to a dedicated project to “Axe the Fax”, initiated with the aim to reduce clinical risk due to fax error and lost paper referrals.

How has HealthLink’s SmartForms technology supported GP e-Referral?

Northern Health has implemented seven HealthLink SmartForms, which have assisted to improve the quality of referrals received with the inclusion of statewide referral criteria and information that needs to be included to support the referral.

Have there been any noticeable improvements to the patient referral transfer process from GPs to Northern Health since HealthLink was introduced?

Yes, there have been significant improvements to the referral transfer process since HealthLink e-Referrals were introduced, including:

  • More timely registration of patients as transmission includes coded data of patient profile and GP profile, reducing manual data entry points.
  • Greater referral security.
  • Higher reliability of complete transmission of clinical content.
  • Improved legibility as documents are received in digital format.
  • Acknowledgement of successful transmission.
  • HL7 messaging enabling tracking of referrals.
  • Reduced time from referral to first appointment.
How have GPs across Melbourne and your referrer catchment adopted this solution?

GP adoption of e-Referrals has been the key strategy towards mitigation of risk due to fax error. Identification of GP clinics as the source of fax errors enabled rapid response and interventions that provided targeted support and education to GPs in how to access and use HealthLink e-Referrals.

What is the greatest benefit GPs have received by using the new e-Referrals?

A more streamlined, easy-to-use process for GP referrers as the electronic referral feature is integrated into GP clinical software used by over 80% of general practices in the NH catchment.

Increased transparency for referrer and Specialist Clinic as referrals can be tracked more easily with referral date stamps and locations within the workflow (i.e. reduced loss of referral at the Specialist Clinic end)

Are you making specific improvements to your GP e-Referrals? Why, what are your goals?

The future goals of Northern Health are to improve communication to GPs and the quality of referrals received. This could be achieved by;

  • The further development of SmartForms for all specialities where statewide referral criteria is available.
  • The development of SmartForms for referral by GPs to diagnostic clinics.
  • Exploring the capability of return communication to GPs via HealthLink.

For those GP practices who do not have compatible clinical software that support HealthLink e-Referrals (approximately 20% of referring GPs), a future goal would be to provide education and support in the use of HealthLink’s web-based portal, which will allow referrers to complete a referral form securely online and attach necessary reports and results.

Based on your current experience, would you ever go back to life before GP e-Referrals?

No way, never!!



To start using GP e-Referrals, check out our HealthLink SmartForm user guides for:

  • Best Practice
  • Genie Solutions
  • Medical Director 3.16 and Above