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Technology highlighted as a key factor across risks in general practices

Post date: 19/02/2013 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 14/11/2018

Technology highlighted as a key factor across risks in general practices The top risks in general practice have been identified based on data collected by the Medical Protection Society (MPS) from more than 120 general practices in the UK.

The use of technology is transforming the lives of many GPs and patients, from text appointment reminders to patients to self check-in at practices; however the findings show it is an emerging risk, and one that GPs and practice managers need to proactively tackle.

Ms Julie Price, Clinical Risk Programme Manager at MPS said, 'In reviewing the top risks for 2012, issues around communication, confidentiality and prescribing were still the most pressing, but we also noticed a growing theme where technology was contributing to the risks in these areas. 'It’s great to see that practices and patients are embracing technology as a way of gaining greater convenience and flexibility, however in the hurry to become digitally-savvy, it is important that they manage the associated risks.'

Communication – website and patient involvement

'Patient involvement is fundamental to improving healthcare; the practice website should be updated with service information and options to contact the practice and feedback websites such as NHS Choices should be utilised and comments responded to. However, we must not forget the importance of face-to-face communication; as part of CQC registration, practices are expected to encourage and enable people who use the service to be involved in how the service is run. One way of doing this is through a patient participation group; however we found that 21% of the practices we visited did not have one.'

Confidentiality – recording devices

'It is becoming increasingly common for patients to ask to record a consultation on their phone, to share with a third party or possibly publish on the internet. Whilst the doctor may feel that the presence of a recording device may hinder the doctor–patient relationship, the doctor has a duty to assess their condition and advise on any necessary treatment. Any concerns about the recording, including managing the security of their confidential information, should be discussed with the patient beforehand and it is sensible to ask for a copy of the recording to be placed in their medical record.'

Prescribing – computer systems

'Many practices now have a medicines manager to add medication to the computer system and update medication in light of discharge summaries or outpatient follow-up letters. It is crucial that medicine and IT training is undertaken and that amends are always checked by a GP to avoid any mix ups. It is also important to review repeat prescribing protocols, particularly to ensure that medication review system is safe and robust and that clinical judgements are not the responsibility of the medicines manager.'

Technological advances will undoubtedly bring further changes and risks will never be eliminated entirely, however identifying and managing the risks early on will go a long way to providing a safer environment for patients.'

The data was collected by the Medical Protection Society (MPS) analysing the results of 121 Clinical Risk Self Assessments (CRSAs) of general practices conducted in 2012. The top ten risks are as follows:

Risk Percentage of practices who identified the risk
Communication 99%
Confidentiality 96%
Prescribing 96%
Record keeping and visits 96%
Health and safety issues 94%
Test results 88%
Infection control 85%
Staff training 84%
Protocols 79%
Appointment and access 78%

More information

Please contact Kim Watson, Press Officer at MPS on +44 207 399 1409 or email [email protected] for more information.

Notes to editor

  1. The data is from 121 Clinical Risk Self Assessments(CRSAs) in the UK and Ireland, undertaken from January 2012 – December 2012. CRSA’s are an MPS service, which has been developed to assist practices in identifying their specific risks.
  2. MPS will be conducting its 1000th CRSA at a general practice in March 2013. 
  3. MPS also offers a range of educational workshops focused on minimising exposure to risk. For more information please click here.

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