ComCom called on health technology dispute

HealthLink and Medtech trade blows over medical messaging

Medical systems provider HealthLink is laying a complaint with the Commerce Commission claiming a rival is refusing to allow the free exchange of New Zealanders’ medical files unless demands of a fee increase of between 180% and 450% are met.

HealthLink says in a statement that ASX-listed Medtech Global (formerly Australian Healthcare Technology), an electronic medical record vendor which provides software to nearly 90% of New Zealand’s 1,200 general practices, has told it that if the higher fees are not paid it will alter licensing agreements to block access to Medtech’s systems — freezing New Zealanders’ private medical information.

However, Medtech chairman Vino Ramayah says there are commercial reasons behind HealthLink's complaint as the two companies are involved in a competitive tender bid. Ramayah says Healthlink is not motivated by public interest in taking the issue to the media.

"This has nothing to do with the day-to-day sending of messages between practices," Ramayah says.

Medtech says day-to-day messaging is continuing as usual and the pricing dispute relates purely to a tender bid now underway in Auckland.

Ramayah says if the Commerce Commission decides to investigate, his company is glad to cooperate. He says HealthLink and Medtech had a commercial agreement, but then HealthLink wanted exclusive use if its solution. Medtech was not prepared to go along with such messaging restrictions, he says.

HealthLink's CEO Tom Bowden, in turn, disputes that claim.

"We never, ever said that or hinted at that," he says. "We are completely against exclusive solutions of any kind."

He backed this with an email to Ramayah dated March 20 that he says proves his point:

"We have no problem with Medtech joining other consortia, however, we would ask that personnel with a key involvement in competing solutions not be directly involved on our project," the email says.

In a subsequent statement, Medtech elaborated, saying HealthLink asked Medtech to join it in a bid for an open tender. Ramayah says that joint bid would have seen HealthLink’s messaging system used should the the contract have been won.

Medtech told HealthLink it is unable to support the proposed HealthLink centralised architecture that restricts choice in terms of messaging carrier for its customers, Ramayah says.

Medtech Global’s systems are used to hold patient notes, including the results of laboratory tests, specialist visits and hospital encounters, all of which are transferred electronically through the HealthLink system.

HealthLink is the electronic communications service that moves patient information around the health system, and is the predominant means by which information is exchanged between GPs and other healthcare providers.

Computerworld is expecting a further statement from Medtech this afternoon.

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