Managing health information

Improving Information Management – Benefits Patients & Health Professionals

Source: Adapted Practice Business (03July2018)

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.

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.
Digital technology gives healthcare employees more choice and it has made information and learning resources more readily available. Such developments are reducing delays and enabling faster, more reliable treatment and care options for patients.

Changing the way that healthcare providers operate

Telemedicine, for example, means patient diagnosis, treatment and aftercare are limited far less by geographic constraints. Also, a secure internet connection, enables healthcare professionals to work more collaboratively in the virtual space and provides the option to access specialist expertise from anywhere. Efficiency improvements and cost savings can be significant.
More healthcare providers, including those in general practice, are operating and communicating using digital capacity, via SMS, video or online consultations, as well as 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

Recently 3Gem conducted on behalf of TeleWare a survey of 2,000 employees in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. 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 as a result they have not dealt effectively with patients.
These findings indicate that healthcare providers are missing out on operational benefits due to inefficiencies in information management. Whilst 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.

What are the obstacles most affecting general practice?

Braving the barriers

Obstacles in information retrieval stem from the, often manual and paper-based, processes that still exist. This way of working does not capture information in the most effective way and is not always easily retrievable by others. For example, a holistic view of a patient’s medical history is rarely available without the expensive recounting of complex questions and collation of information. Much of this information has never been captured electronically, is from multiple sources and leads 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. Particularly in a post-GDPR world. Privacy and confidentiality are increasingly top considerations!

How can practices manage this compliantly?

A best practice approach needs to guarantee end-to-end security of data, with all parties understanding who can access the information that is captured and for what purposes. This information security must to be balanced against the potential benefits, particularly for key stakeholders patients and their healthcare professionals. Recording the key interactions around a diagnosis, treatment and care programme.
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 available.

Balancing patient experience and outcomes with your practice budget

Giving practice staff access to a reliable platform that can store valuable communications interaction, improves patient experience and outcomes and reduces cost through greater efficiencies. For example storing a conversation makes it possible to provide a definitive record, rather than an interpreted one. This removes the potential for error and reducing the scope for misinterpretation. Furthermore, 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 collaboration and better decision-making. This capability greatly reduces the need for note-taking allowing better concentration on what is being discussed.
Reducing the amount of time healthcare professionals spend on admin saves money and delivers greater efficiencies.
Making best use of digital technology in healthcare creates opportunities to improve training and quality control which also reduces costs to the practice. Mentoring and training of the next generation of staff can be improved by effective use of such technology. For example the availability of a library of real-life patient interactions as reference material provides an excellent source of learning for continuous improvement.

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