Following our research, we received a lot of feedback about the standardising of IT systems across practices. Can you give us some advice please on process and procedures that might help?
Ross Clark, Partner at Hempsons, discusses the importance of standardising IT systems across GP practices and the Data Protection implications.
Standardising IT systems across practices is vitally important when practices work together or even merge. There are two or three core systems that practices use and obviously they don’t speak to each other very well. So, when practices are working together and merging they need to look at the systems they’ve got and plan interim measures and ideally, move to one system ultimately so everyone’s on the same platform. Now, another linked element to that is training because staff need to be trained to use the system in a consistent manner, to input data in a consistent way, to put all the data in that is needed and then that will help a more objective output that is of more use to the practice as a whole. So, actually getting the system on a common platform, getting people trained, getting the system suitable for all the practices and everybody knows how to use it in the correct way is fundamental. There’s another second element to this which is often overlooked which is data protection because patients will have given consent for their data to be used within a practice and for the daily use that that practice puts it, your daily core hours clinical work. However, if you’re working with other practices without merging with them, then you may be sharing information about patients to what is effectively a third party and you may not have consent to do that and it may end up being a breach of the Data Protection Act. So, it is fundamental that if you are working with other practices you look at the consents that have been obtained from patients, you go back to those, and if they’re not expansive enough to cover working in a federation and sharing that information with other practices in the area, you need to refresh those consents. So, the IT system is important, it needs to be consistent, it needs to be applied by all in the same way, there needs to be consistent input to get the benefits from that system, but equally, don’t forget about the Data Protection angle and the consent that patients give to the use of their data within that system.