Wednesday, July 6, 2022
HomeHealthHow operating like a start-up helped NZ's Orion Health become profitable again

How operating like a start-up helped NZ’s Orion Health become profitable again

While a number of businesses were scrambling to protect themselves from the profound changes caused by the global pandemic, New Zealand’s Orion Health was just in the process of releasing a timely solution that would help support overwhelmed health systems.


The health IT provider had to delist from the bourses of Australia and New Zealand in March 2019 and restructure its business as a result of the Trump administration’s decision to cancel several Obamacare contracts. The company had signed such contracts with a number of states in the US under the previous Obama administration.

“Essentially, we’ve gone back to being an entrepreneurial start-up,” said Orion Health founder and CEO Ian McCrae in a media release. The company, which is operating in 15 countries, has halved its staff to around 560 today from 1,200 four years ago. 

To make its way back up again, Andrew Bowater, Orion Health’s Global VP of Corporate Affairs and Marketing, told MobiHealth News that they shifted their operations to that of a startup. They stripped out bureaucracy and gave teams the independence to be innovative and deliver to clients at their own pace. 

“Making these changes meant that we were ready to capitalise on the global shift to population health. Population health is the key to managing the health and wellness of people in a Covid-challenged world. This is not hospital-centred healthcare; instead, population health delivers the right care (often online), at the right place (sometimes at home), at the right time (ideally before you’re really unwell),” he said.

Prior to the pandemic, the company was working on the Digital Front Door (DFD), a health information exchange (HIE) platform that integrates new and existing health information, data, solutions and services into a unified hub.


Orion Health has been pitching this “tailored, community-specific HIE platform” to state and territory Health Departments in Australia as part of its efforts to grow its business in the country. The DFD, McCrae said, “isn’t some dressed up patient portal”. 

“For the first time, people will be truly active participants in their own healthcare. They’ll have streamlined access to their complete medical history from primary care, allied health professionals through to hospital interventions.”

The company claims that the platform helps ease health workers’ fatigue while also enabling patients to take control of their own health by giving access to their health data. 

“We can now connect fragmented silos, enabling people to interact with health information and make informed decisions in the same way they do with financial, travel and retail transactions,” he added.

After incurring losses of A$50 million ($35 million) and NZ$70 million ($45 million) by the end of its public listings, the company started becoming profitable again by the end of March last year. Presently, Orion Health is working with private hospitals to explore using its DFD in improving surgical patient admissions. 


In September last year, Orion Health secured a project to deliver a hospital information system for the upcoming surgery facility at Kaweka Health

It also bagged a contract from the Justice Health Forensic Mental Health Network in New South Wales for the deployment of its medication management and electronic medicines administration platform across the group’s electronic health system.

Alongside closing these recent contracts in New Zealand and Australia, the company is also trying to sign two major contracts in North America and the Middle East. 


As hospitals continue to be swamped with patients during the ongoing pandemic, Dr Chris Hobson, Orion Health’s CMO, said providers are looking for ways to lighten the workload of health staff while reducing physical contact between people where possible. “We all deserve access to systems that deliver the right care, at the right place and the right time. To achieve this, we need data science and technology to do the heavy lifting, not just people”.



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