NHS England’s Five Year Forward View recognises the potential benefits of GP practices working together with neighbouring practices, community hospitals and other providers to support efficient service delivery at a local level.
New GP Federations are being established right across the country, bringing both opportunities and new challenges for practice managers. Much of the initial focus may be around securing funding for new projects and services – and rightly so. However, working together also presents real opportunities to improve efficiency, share learning and make limited resources go further.
One of these areas is technology. While still a long way off delivering its paperless agenda, the NHS has seen significant advances in uses of technology. Increasingly patients are booking appointments and ordering prescriptions online while more practices are using the new generation of cloud based clinical systems which reduces reliance on local IT and enables increased collaboration.
As practices work together, opportunities exist to share resources and develop more coordinated ways of working, which in turn, could affect the types of products and services required to support this new approach. By working collaboratively with the right external partners, new solutions, fit for tomorrow’s NHS, will start to emerge.
As suppliers develop a better understanding of what GP practices really value, systems can be adapted to provide a more useful service, delivering time and cost savings as well as improving patient care. For example, document creation systems which integrate fully with clinical systems can save both time and money, but most importantly, reduce the likelihood of errors. Similarly, use of effective cloud-based systems means doctors, nurses and practice managers can work effectively on the move, whether on home visits, ward rounds or working from home.
In many cases, these advances have come about through supplier innovation, but at the heart of that innovation is understanding what additional features will really add value and become tomorrow’s ‘must have’ technology.
Inevitably, as practices come together, they will find they are using different tools and systems. By being willing to embrace a new approach and move towards shared systems and services, practices could significantly improve efficiency as well as sharing the burden of sourcing, managing and funding external systems.
Instead of looking at ‘off the shelf’ products, however, now more than ever, practice managers should be looking ahead at how their services are changing and take the opportunity to shape new solutions which support integrated, flexible ways of working by design.
Written by Dr Andrew Whiteley, GP and Managing Director of Lexacom Digital Dictation
Andrew combines a rich clinical background with an extensive knowledge of technology and his personal experience as a GP led him to develop Lexacom.