Working in our new 'liberated NHS' presents new information management challenges. However, there are sharing and collaboration solutions that solve these issues.
Working together in groups is not new for many practices. For years, practices have met on a regular basis to share the best ways of working and to support each other. Most practices already try to share information effectively around their own practice team. The introduction of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) has resulted in a requirement for more formal co-operation, but the principles of working together are the same.
The formation of CCGs has resulted in an increase in information that is common to all practices across a group. This might include new processes such as improved referral pathways. Similarly, we can be more efficient if we share common policies and protocols.
The benefits of sharing within and between practices are clear; less duplication, shared production and maintenance effort, definitive references for common information and so on.
The benefits, however, come with challenges that need to be tackled. Sharing means more information to manage, so it is critical that we have ways to present the right information to the right person. Similarly, if we are sharing between practices, we need to leave each practice in control. We must also seamlessly merge the practice information with the shared information. We need a solution that makes sharing easy and has the power to capitalise on the benefits.
The first and simplest option is to set up a shared network folder and have everyone access the same version of the same document. This is certainly a step forward and something most practices have put in place at some point. The problem, however, is that you just have 'a pile of files' and limited control of who can read or edit them. A shared folder doesn't track information such as review dates, comments, or even a simple description of the item. It also restricts sharing to only people on your network. Most importantly, a shared folder makes it almost impossible to highlight important documents and to share and filter them for different roles.
Another option is a web-based system, often referred to as an 'intranet'. Intranets are often touted as the solution to all your woes. An intranet typically allows sharing of documents, calendars and sometimes other information. It lets you share and collate information from a wider audience. Practices can share information with each other and the CCG. They can move towards sharing with other practices when it comes to maintaining policies, rather than constantly reinventing the wheel.
However, if you have been involved with these solutions before, you'll have seen that they often fail to reap the potential benefits from sharing by using that rich information. What's missing is the 'system intelligence' required to identify relationships in the information and feed this rich information directly in to our processes. Solutions that have the real power to do this are often referred to as information management solutions and there are very few of them developed specifically for general practice.
A proper information management solution not only understands the relationships between the different pieces of information, but also gives maximum control where it's needed – to the practice team. As well as the basic features, a full solution should, for example:
GPTeamNet is a firmly established information management solution developed for, and with, GP practices and CCGs. It has been extremely well received by CCGs and practices all over the country and has delivered the benefits that only an information management solution can offer. With an ever-growing list of users it is enabling both practices and CCGs to work together to streamline and get better value from their information. It adds specific capabilities for managing frameworks such as QOF, CQC and information governance and reduces tedious, manual processes that can take weeks.
For further information or to arrange a demonstration for you and your colleagues, please visit www.gpteamnet.com/mip or call 0191 201 2158.
"GPTeamNet is a solution that we use across the CCG and our member practices. It allows us to share information easily and gives us the tools we need to support and work with our practices. I would recommend GPTeamNet to a CCG looking for a solution that enables sharing, collaboration, and communication with practices."