Expenses for former Waikato District Health Board chief executive Dr Nigel Murray show tens of thousands of dollars spent on travel associated with HealthTap, the American company that powers SmartHealth.

It's the latest revelation in Murray's expenses scandal and comes as the State Services Commission yesterday announced how its investigation into the spending would proceed.

HealthTap is the DHB's virtual health provider, a proposal for which Murray and board chairman Bob Simcock first presented to the board in June 2015.

A month later the board signed off the proposal one member said was "lacking in detail and substance", and Murray and Simcock were delegated to make the final decision over committing to HealthTap.


Murray became a champion of the Silicon Valley interactive health company set up in Delaware but based at Palo Alto, near San Francisco.

Expense receipts show he originally spent $45,608 on international and domestic travel associated with HealthTap and SmartHealth.

That included six trips to San Francisco between March 2015 and May 2017. The DHB paid out $8929 for the March 2015 trip but reduced the amount payable to $1488 after it became clear that Murray went to Canada for seven days in the middle of the visit.

One of the trips in May this year cost $7615, for just three days.

The $45,608 does not include a further three trips to the United States and Canada that Murray took in September, October and November last year because the DHB filed the expenses with a zero cost.

A spokeswoman said the cost for those trips, labelled "professional development and completion of research project" have been invoiced to Murray. The receipts show they were not authorised.

Murray's reason for his involvement with the information systems strategy, believed to have cost as much as $17 million so far, is unclear and earlier this year the DHB did not specify his reason for the travel.

Simcock's two visits in November 2014 and April 2016 amounted to $8655 for "due diligence".


It's understood that in large organisations like DHBs, the chief information officer is usually responsible for all information technology. They in turn report to the chief executive.

But Murray not only visited the US hub at least six times, he also flew to Australia and other parts of New Zealand to promote SmartHealth.

This was despite the fact the DHB was already working with primary health organisation Pinnacle Midlands Health, toward sharing their similar telehealth system before Murray was appointed CEO.

He defended SmartHealth when it came under the microscope in the media and gave it prominence in his foreword in the DHB's 2015/16 Annual Report, saying he was "particularly proud" of SmartHealth.

The business case has never been released publicly despite repeated requests but the DHB will now review its contract with HealthTap for the app, which has failed to attract the targeted number of users.

It's not the first time Waikato DHB has spent millions on an American IT system that doctors didn't like.

In the late 1990s, Shared Medical Systems [SMS] was dumped by Health Waikato, as it was known then, after three years and at a cost of $11 million.

Board chairman Jack Jenkins and four board members involved with the decision to buy SMS were asked to resign over the debacle by then Health Minister Annette King.

A review of the decision to purchase the system, made after an unauthorised visit to Arizona by Jenkins, a board member and a Crown monitoring representative, found the speed at which the board made its decision reduced the opportunity for reporting back to clinicians and other staff.

Cost to promote SmartHealth

At the same time public money was being spent on travel to HealthTap, hundreds of thousands was being spent on a public campaign to promote SmartHealth.

Almost $339,000 was spent on "public information" including advertising, photography, promotional leaflets, newsletters, posters, banners, videos and attendance at community events.

"With a new project of this size and complexity we needed a public information programme to raise awareness among the public and staff and encourage sign up," Waikato DHB virtual care and innovation executive director Darrin Hackett said.

In a breakdown of costs by bands released under the Official Information Act the DHB paid:

• Between $105,000 and $206,000 to King St Advertising for brand development

• Between $1000 and $55,000 to Netball Waikato Bay of Plenty for sponsorship and promotion

• Between $5000 and $50,000 to Wordage, a Hamilton writing duo, for brand development

• Between $5000 and $10,000 to Wintec for brand development.

Despite the intensive and costly campaign, user numbers remain below target.