Plunket health-checks for newborns set to go digital

Plunket nurses in Wellington/Wairarapa are starting to record health information for newborns and children newly-enrolled to Plunket by tablet and app instead of paper and pen – but there are no plans to phase out the well-loved Well Child Tamariki Ora book, historically known as the Plunket book.

Instead of taking paper health records to home visits with families, nurses will complete the Well Child Tamariki Ora health check via an app on-screen. The electronic Plunket Health Record (ePHR) will be used by 59 nurses in the Wellington/Wairarapa region, and Plunket’s goal is to roll out the ePHR across the country by the end of the year.

Plunket Chief Executive Jenny Prince said when the service is rolled out to all Plunket families it will mean a more seamless service: “Using a digital health record means we can make sure fewer children slip through the cracks. A Plunket nurse can do a health-check for another child on the spot, if they’re out on a visit and they see another child in the family for example. Or if they get talking to a neighbouring family and find they’re not registered with Plunket, or they’ve missed an appointment, they can do it there and then, or make an appointment.” said Jenny Prince, who started her career with Plunket as a Plunket nurse 27 years ago. 

Prince said it was a significant step forward for Plunket: “It’s a big shift for our staff, and it’s exciting because it means we can do more to support families and improve health outcomes for young children. Our frontline staff can tailor care for children and families more easily, by having more readily accessible health records. We’re grateful to the many donors, partners and sponsors who have invested in our ePHR and in children’s health.”

The launch of the ePHR in Wellington/Wairarapa follows its successful pilot in Northland with 31 frontline staff. Prince said the response from families to the Northland trial had been positive: “Many families expect us to be doing this already, they’re used to technology in their own lives, so they’re probably more surprised when our nurses arrive with paper files than with the tablets.”

The launch of the ePHR is in line with the Government’s strategy to use digital formats to store information throughout the health system, with the future aim of health professionals from GPs to A&E staff being able to share and access health information more quickly.

Plunket nurse Keli Livingston and says the ePHR is already making a difference in her work by making it easier to connect with parents: “In one case, I didn’t have a phone number for a mum who had a new baby, so I’d been leaving notes in her mailbox to try and book an appointment. She saw the Plunket car outside the clinic and came in to see me, and with the ePHR I had all her notes right there, I had all the basics. It meant I could get straight into working with mum to make sure feeding was well, sleeping was well and she was aware of safety for her baby’s age.”

To mark the start of the roll-out, Plunket invited Hon Peter Dunne, Associate Health Minister to see the ePHR being used, with Plunket nurse Keli providing a health-check for Stephanie and Lewis Richardson’s 2-month-old daughter Matilda. “Plunket has over a century of forward-thinking and innovation for mothers and children so it’s not surprising they’re taking this step forward. I think one of the biggest and exciting things is for Plunket to access the record potentially anywhere in the country, so parents can go into a clinic potentially anywhere and have the same service.”

Plunket’s Chief Information Officer, Lois van Waardenberg, said the ePHR was part of Plunket’s broader technology journey to provide families with a more responsive service: “Plunket has developed a secure system that can provide far more for families than a more efficient Well Child / Tamariki Ora service. We’ll be able to provide more joined-up services for our clients, and move toward concentrating services in our communities where we can make a difference by having information accessible in real time, anywhere.”

The data will be stored in the Microsoft cloud, which Plunket found best met the requirements they and the government had for security and privacy.

“Plunket’s ePHR app aligns with Health IT Board’s vision by creating benefits for consumers and nurses through easy-to-use, digital solutions. In future, it will allow Well Child information to form part of the wellness and health record for children aged 0 to 5 and the national electronic health record,” says Graeme Osborne, National Health IT Board Director.

Late last year, Plunket’s partner Axenic won the Best Security Project / Initiative category at the 2015 iSANZ awards for its work on Plunket's ePHR programme, with judges citing the impact the use of the cloud would have on the rest of the health sector. 

Notes to editors

  • Plunket frontline health professionals carry out and record around 700,000 health checks for children each year. Plunket nurses see 9 in 10 newborns in New Zealand, around 50,000 to 60,000 babies each year. This equates to around 275,000 paper files.

  • Plunket partners with the Ministry of Health to offer all families in New Zealand free ‘Well Child Tamariki Ora’ health checks for their children. There are seven ‘core checks’, the first when the baby is 2-6 weeks old, and there is also a B4School check at 4 years.

  • The ePHR has been developed by Plunket in partnership with Microsoft, Windows app developer Marker Metro (MM built the app for use by nurses in the field) and Microsoft Dynamics CRM specialist Koorb Consulting (now Fusion 5).

  • Plunket completed the successful live testing phase of the development of its ePHR with 31 Plunket health professionals working with families from Dargaville to Kaitaia – 27 Plunket nurses, kaiawhina, and healthworkers, 3 support staff, and a clinical leader.

  • The ePHR will be rolled-out to families of newborns and new clients: those already registered with Plunket will still have their health-checks completed by paper for a limited period.

  • When it is live nationally, around 600 Plunket frontline health staff will use the ePHR.

  • Plunket’s partner Axenic won the privacy award on Wednesday 9 December. For more information about the awards visit the iSANZ website at

  • Plunket thanks the many donors who have generously funded the ePHR. Plunket is now fundraising to roll-out the digital app nationwide. 

For more information contact:

Jen Riches | Plunket Media Manager 

About Plunket

For over a century Plunket has supported New Zealand parents to nurture healthy, happy kiwi babies. 

Plunket is a not-for-profit organisation and is New Zealand’s largest provider of services to support the health and development of children under five.

Plunket is dedicated to working with parents and communities to ensure that New Zealand children get the best start in life. Plunket’s services help families nationwide, through over 300 branches, mobile clinics and a free phone service PlunketLine, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (0800 933 922).

Plunket services are available free to families in New Zealand with children aged 0 to 5. As registered nurses with a postgraduate qualification, Plunket nurses are able to offer high standards of expertise and a range of services to families.

For more information visit

About BNZ – Principal Sponsor

Bank of New Zealand is proud to work hand in hand with Plunket to bring young New Zealand families support when they need it most.

BNZ is proud to have been a part of New Zealand since 1861 and looks forward to supporting another organisation that has been integral to our country's upbringing.

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