Practice staff have a lot to contend with operationally, whilst all the time focusing on patient care. In every practice a considerable amount of patient information is processed daily – recording and recalling this patient data is playing an increasing role in operational and patient care capacities.
We caught up with Andrew Fawcett, product manager at TeleWare, to dissect the use of technology in the recording and, subsequent, retrieval of information relating to communications.
Digital transformation in healthcare is well-documented – most recently, Babylon’s claim that a chatbot can diagnose medical conditions as accurately as a GP, which has, understandably, been met with caution. Questions surrounding online consultations have also made headlines.
However, Andrew Fawcett, product manager at TeleWare, reminds us that it has also given healthcare employees more choice and it has made information and learning resources more readily available – reducing delays and enabling faster, more reliable treatment and care options for patients.
Changing the way that healthcare providers operate
“Telemedicine, for example, has meant that patient diagnosis, treatment and aftercare are limited far less by geographic constraints,” he observes. “Similarly, with a secure internet connection, healthcare professionals can work more collaboratively in the virtual space and have many more options for bringing in specialist expertise from anywhere. Efficiency gains and cost savings through the reduction of travel can be significant.”
More healthcare providers – including those in general practice – are operating (and communicating) using digital capacity, via SMS and video or online consultations, as well as other healthcare apps. Technology already plays a central role in the delivery of care; however, it could be more aptly applied in supporting services – particularly communications.
Using technology to streamline operations
In recent survey of 2,000 employees in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries – published by TeleWare – 94% of respondents said that they believe an ability to record and recall information more quickly would help to improve their performance, yet only 46% said they have processes in place to capture, record and consequently retrieve information relating to communications.
The survey also found that nearly two-fifths (39%) of respondents admitted to having wasted a lot of time during the day attempting to record and recall information. In addition, over a third (34%) admitted they have not dealt effectively with patients as a result.
These findings suggest that healthcare providers are missing out on operational benefits due to inefficiencies in information retrieval. “Whilst it is fair to say some progress has been made in both information capture and retrieval, significant cultural, privacy and operational barriers persist and are preventing the huge potential benefits to be realised at scale,” Andrew says.
So what are the obstacles most affecting general practice?
Braving the barriers
Andrew says that obstacles in information retrieval stem from the, often manual, even paper-based, processes that still exist. “With this way of working, information is not captured in the most effective way and may not always be easily retrievable by others,” he explains. “For example, a holistic view of a patient’s medical history is rarely available without the expensive recounting of complex questions and drawing together of information – much of which has never been captured electronically – from multiple sources, leading to significant operational inefficiencies.”
When it comes to the retrieval of information relating to communication it’s important to understand that there are constraints around the recording of such data – especially in a post-GDPR world; privacy and confidentiality are increasingly top considerations! So how can practices manage this compliantly?
“A best practice approach needs to guarantee end-to-end encryption of data, with all parties understanding who can access the information that is captured and for what purposes it has been captured,” Andrew says, adding that this needs to be balanced against an appreciation of the potential benefits – not least to the patient – of recording the key interactions around a diagnosis, treatment and care programme for a patient.
“Technology must not get in the way of the communication itself and it is vital that training is given in the most appropriate and correct use of the tools at hand,” he says.
Balancing patient experience and outcomes with your practice budget
Giving practice staff access to a reliable platform, one that can store valuable communications interaction, could help improve patient experience and outcomes, whilst reducing cost through greater efficiencies. How?
“Storing a conversation makes it possible to provide a definitive record, rather than an interpreted one – removing the potential for error and reducing the scope for misinterpretation,” Andrew explains. Further, accurate time-stamping of conversations also allows professionals to come to more considered decisions regarding patient care or treatment.
“The ability to (privacy permitting) share a recorded conversation with a peer group, and even with a patient, can help drive more collaborative working and better decision-making, as well as greatly reducing the need for note-taking,” he continues.
There are also long-term financial benefits to this. Deploying this technology – to record and store communications – can help GPs and private doctors to reduce the amount of time spent on admin – reducing cost by enabling greater efficiencies.
Andrew suggests that it can also provide you with the opportunity improve training and quality control, again, reducing costs to the practice. “Mentoring and training of the next generation of staff can be improved by having a rich bank of real-life patient interactions to refer to, whilst providing a much-needed feedback loop and continuous improvement programme,” he says.
Just one question remains; are you missing out on operational benefits due to inefficiencies in information retrieval?