Northern Ireland practice saving hours of time each week with EMIS Web

By using protocols, templates, quick keys and more within EMIS Web, Willowbank Surgery is reducing waste, improving productivity and meeting NHS Long Term Plan aims.

“I’d been waiting for something like EMIS Web for a long time,” begins Dr Keith McCollum, GP at Willowbank Surgery and EMIS Web super user. “It’s the perfect tool.”  
The Northern Ireland practice’s wait was down to them wanting to find the right clinical IT system to support their desired ‘Lean’ model of operations. Focussed on minimising waste without reducing productivity, the model’s principles were created in the mid-90s following a study of Toyota’s efficient production system. But with Keith believing that “The idea of eliminating waste out of your system is also hugely relevant to healthcare,” the surgery decided that they wanted to find software that would help them deliver “high-quality, high-volume work.”  


And that’s exactly what Willowbank Surgery has achieved with EMIS Web. Using protocols, templates and quick keys – tools within EMIS Web that automatically run processes, populate information and standardise data – the practice has significantly simplified their processes. Altogether, it’s meant that they’re improving efficiencies, meeting NHS Long Term Plan aims and delivering more proactive care.  

“The real gain with protocols and templates in EMIS Web is where you multiply all the time savings together... It accumulates to hours of time saved every week”

Dr Keith McCollum, GP, Willowbank Surgery

Winning the race by driving efficiencies across the surgery

For Keith, the most noticeable difference EMIS Web has made is to do with efficiencies. From customised letter templates to checklists of things to follow up on with a patient, our clinical software’s tools have simplified tasks for Willowbank, leading to significant time savings.   

“We now have 20 customised letters ready to go out to patients at the click of a button. Just think of how much time that saves us alone”

Dr Keith McCollum, GP, Willowbank Surgery

As Keith explains, “EMIS Web’s protocols allow you to take logic and apply it via a simple process. They allow you to link a lot of processes together. I’ve got around 20 protocols set up now for a multitude of things which would typically be quite complex processes. Before, you would need to check numerous different things with the patient, so you’d end up bouncing around the system, gathering different bits of information to gain a clear picture. 

One of the protocols we use in EMIS Web is a low folate result protocol using the F12 key. This is done in one process rather than having to get other members of the team to create the result for you. F12 protocols mean small things are presented to the GP at the right time. And those things are really effective. 

The low folate protocol includes a letter template and an information leaflet. It also saves a practice note that states that we have to get in touch with the patient for a further appointment, which saves the patient from having to call back. Without this, the process in unnecessary and long. What we’re doing here is eliminating waste from our processes and improving efficiencies.” 

“Having this as one automated process saves us a lot of time.”

Dr Keith McCollum, GP, Willowbank Surgery

For Keith, the cumulative impact of all of these individual improvements is massive. “The real gain with protocols and templates in EMIS Web is where you multiply all the time savings together,” he says. “Look at where you’re saving two minutes here and five clicks there and, all of a sudden, that accumulates to hours of time saved across the practice every week. It’s all about marginal gains – and that results in someone winning the race.” 

Meeting transformational targets and aims  

Those aren’t the only areas where protocols in EMIS Web are saving the practice time though. “Other areas in EMIS Web that have real time-saving benefits are things like coding UTI results and managing pre-diabetes,” continues Keith. And if those time savings weren’t enough of a benefit of their own, Keith also points out how these tools are helping Willowbank Surgery to meet countrywide strategies too: “They’re all things that are set out in strategic plans that we’re really focussing on now.” 

The support EMIS Web is providing the surgery with meeting national targets also extends to their QOF reporting. As Keith explains, “Originally QOF meant we would have a lot of extra processes to cover, something which can mean endlessly repetitive work. With EMIS Web, this process is now lean. We have alerts to populate the QOF box, which saves us a huge amount of re-work.” 

Better able to deliver proactive and preventative care

With care quality a big focus for the practice, Willowbank’s team have been able to use EMIS Web to turn their focus towards improving how they support patients with particular needs.

“Asthma is a big area of improvement for our practice,” details Keith. “But with alerts set up and by running searches for asthma patients, we’ve been able to call patients in for checks and dramatically reduce the number of people with blue inhalers.

That’s only one of the ways the surgery is now delivering better proactive and preventative care too. “QRisk is another great tool,” explains Keith. Using information from a patient’s notes, the tool creates a risk score for that patient. If the score is high, “The system flags this with you and reminds you to check these patients when they come through the door.” By using these tools alongside other protocols that “identify patients who need an intervention when they’re attending the surgery for another reason,” Willowbank Surgery is now truly on top of supporting at-risk patients.

“EMIS Web is what I was waiting for”

Dr Keith McCollum, GP, Willowbank Surgery

As Keith points out, these different protocols and tools are of benefit to both staff and patients, since they streamline communication. Detailing another protocol, he explains, “We also have pop-up alerts on the front desk. These mean staff have the opportunity to book patients in for certain checks. For example, we have almost 1,000 patients with high blood pressure. Reception can now book these patients who have missed a BP check without the patient having to call up for an appointment, and without us having to send letters out to call patients in.”


Bringing lasting and positive change across the practice

While Willowbank Surgery initially had some trepidation about transitioning to a new clinical IT system, now the move is complete, there are no regrets to be had. “Putting quality improvement and EMIS Web together is fantastic – it cuts out rework across all our practice systems says Keith.

It’s a change for the better that’s only going to continue too. “We’re spreading this quality of improvement right across the entire practice – there’s a real appetite for trying to improve efficiency and EMIS Web has been at the core of this,” he says. “EMIS Web is what I was waiting for.”

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