Referrals in the Australian context

Referrals are communications with the intention of initiating a transfer of responsibility for some aspects of a consumer’s ongoing management from one provider to another across a range of healthcare and human services fields.

Context in digital health

The purpose of the Agency’s Referral product is to define the clinical content and technical format for a nationally-agreed referral document for exchange between healthcare and human services providers in Australia along with the technical services required to digitally transmit the document from the referral sender to the referral receiver.

The Australian Digital Health Agency’s previous eReferral document specifications have been used for sending referrals from general practitioners (GPs) to specialist healthcare providers. The current Service Referral specification supports referrals amongst all healthcare and human services professions.

Figure 1: High-level overview of clinical document delivery

Clinical document delivery high-level overview

These flows are described below:

The GP consults with a patient and writes a referral letter in their authoring system.

The authoring system assembles the clinical information into a structured digital document and digitally transmits it to the referral receiver’s system.


The Agency has provided the following specifications that apply to the eReferral described above:

Current Specifications: 

The previous eReferral clinical document specifications were constrained to supporting referrals from a General Practitioner to a private specialist. Referrals to public hospitals, allied health providers or human services providers were not supported.

By operation of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability (Establishing the Australian Digital Health Agency) Rule 2016, on 1 July 2016, all the assets and liabilities of NEHTA will vest in the Australian Digital Health Agency. In this website, on and from 1 July 2016, all references to "National E-Health Transition Authority" or "NEHTA" will be deemed to be references to the Australian Digital Health Agency. PCEHR means the My Health Record, formerly the "Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record", within the meaning of the My Health Records Act 2012 (Cth), formerly called the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records Act 2012 (Cth).

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