Changes to referrals at Northern Health

  5 October 2020  NWMPHN   

Following a successful pilot of electronic referral at Northern Health, which has been running since 2018, Northern Health are progressing with their intention to ‘axe the fax’.

Northern Health’s preferred mechanism to receive referrals into their Specialist Clinics is by HealthLink SmartForms. HealthLink is a secure, safe electronic channel for delivery of patient information between clinicians.

This move is designed to ensure identifiable clinical content is transmitted in a secure format, which will result in:

  • Receipt of referrals which are intact and complete
  • Fewer declined referrals
  • Quicker appointment times for patients

This transition will begin in October. Northern Health has been communicating directly with their practices who frequently refer patients to Northern Health about this change.

What is a SmartForm?

Using the SmartForm that integrates with general practice software, GPs will be able to select a form, have it pre-populated automatically with data from the electronic patient record, have it validated and sent securely to the intended recipient, and receive an acknowledgement of receipt without the need to print and fax. A copy of the form will automatically be stored securely in the patient’s record.

The HealthLink SmartForms have been updated to include the statewide referral criteria, making it easy for referrers to include the required information in a referral to ensure the referral meets these requirements.

Benefits of electronic referrals

  • Immediate receipt when a referral is received
  • Faster access for patients as there are no delays (caused by faulty faxes) that need to be followed up
  • Fewer referrals returned for more information as referrals are compatible with statewide referral criteria
  • Time saved on administration in general practices

Is your system compatible with HealthLink SmartForms?

Many practices already have HealthLink installed – it is the secure messaging system used by several pathology companies to download results.  

HealthLink Smartforms are compatible with the following software systems and are free to use:

  • MedicalDirector
  • Best Practice
  • Genie
  • MedTech

Easy to use step-by-step guides are available on the Northern Health website.

What happens if you send a fax referral?

  • Northern Health will contact practices who send in fax referrals, letting them know about the change and will assist practices to transition to using HealthLink (where possible).
  • Support will initially be provided to practices whose faxed referrals are regularly producing errors on receipt. Northern Health will then reach out to other practices fortnightly in waves to transition practices onto HealthLink.

Need help?

Would you like a demonstration on how to use the electronic referral systems? Are you experiencing any difficulties sending a referral? Do you have software that doesn’t have HealthLink SmartForms?

Please contact:

Christopher Daniel
Northern Health Specialist Clinics
03 8405 8763


The North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network Primary Health Care Improvement Team on 03 9347 1188 or

With Northern Health.