We encouraged one of the GP federations that we work with to invest in IT support and it has contracted through us four IT support staff that we supervise to help support the programmes listed below. They role involves horizon scanning for solutions to help practices, by testing innovative products, by project managing implementation of schemes, by liaising with suppliers and CCG/CSU and by helping put in bids for funding.
Here are some brief notes about some of the projects that you might want to do too. Feel free to get in touch for more details. Make sure you check our previous article. Implementation is key, just telling practices isn’t sometimes enough, they are often so busy and stretched that change is difficult. A key role for a Federation is to lead, guide, support and monitor these projects so all benefit.
Check out mailing companies like Docmail. They offsite the printing, the folding, the stuffing and the posting of letters. The price they charge is usually cheaper than posting the letter yourself and certainly cheaper once you take into account printers, toners, envelopes, paper, time etc.
They work particularly well for bulk mails like flu invites but Docmail now has a printer driver that can be installed on any machine. Selecting that “printer” sends the letter to the Docmail service on a one by one basis. Even better they are looking at asking patients who might receive regular mail items to sign up to an electronic mail box and the cost of sending to this is cheaper still.
Partner with an SMS company. We use iPlato. While we like the fact they have an app for patients that allows online access, but what we really like is their SMS tool. You can send cheap SMS messages to patients including automatically, for example a friends and family test post every consultation. You can send to groups or individuals. You can create a range of templates to make it easier to use. We have found sending an SMS to a patient is much more efficient than trying to ring them and failing multiple times. Reception, secretarial staff appear to love the ability to send answers to queries to patients. Some of our docs are using it too. We have a wish list of improvements including making it easier for a doctor to send a message but its saving time and money already.
We have worked closely with Lexacom to try out their cloud solution. Lexacom are the leading GP dictation company. The software was originally written by a GP who still runs the company and he understands the needs of general practice especially as we move to a federated future. Their cloud platform allows multiple practices to join together. This has several benefits. You get a discount for bulk purchase. You also gain from everyone being on the same software – you only need one lot of training, everyone is always on the latest version, staff that move around can use the same system. It has an app that means you can dictate from a patient’s house, nursing home or even from your home if you take work home.
We initially wanted to investigate the possibility of setting up a federation pool of typists who could be jointly employed and work on behalf of member practices. Covering for holiday, sickness, perhaps just doing urgent work or setting a minimum standard past which all letters are typed.
While Lexacom enables this, we were introduced to Accuro who are one of their authorised partners and haven’t had to set it up. Accuro is a friendly firm based in the UK, they have a fantastic service that our PMs love. They seem to have almost unlimited capacity and work on an as needed basis. You can elect to send them as much or as little work as you want. Stop hiring expensive bank staff who need training on how to use your system. Accuro don’t want a contract, are happy to work on a per item basis, offer a free trial and are highly recommended. Note they only type the letter so any coding or choose and booking still needs to be done in house and this is what we are now looking at getting the federation to do.
However, as good as Accuro are, they may be in trouble as we have been amazed at Lexacom echo, an enterprise speech recognition engine that genuinely appears to save time and money. You dictate as normal, though you need to include punctuation, and send it off to the cloud. Moments later a typed document arrives in the secretary pool. This only needs checking and correcting which is much faster than audiotyping the entire document. Within days most people are seeing 95% plus accuracy and the more corrections the secretaries do the better it gets. Echo is possibly the future combined with a centralised admin service.