Are you using your primary care system to its full potential?

04 Feb 2016

There are common functions to every primary care clinical system, like booking an appointment, printing a prescription or adding a consultation. And if you’ve changed clinical systems in the last few years, you’ll have made it your priority to work out how to do them.

But, what about the real power of your clinical system? Are you using all of those advanced features that speed up the way you work and make your workload just that bit easier?

It’s an important question to ask yourself – especially when so many NHS organisations are transforming the way they deliver healthcare in the UK.

A good number of business changes can come from adopting the more advanced functionality of your clinical systems. Whether it’s changing your care pathways through data sharing, avoiding unnecessary admissions through risk calculators or simply becoming more efficient in your operations through automation and new ways of working, they all add up to make you and your colleagues more efficient, more productive, and can enhance your service for patients.

It doesn’t have to be revolutionary

In my experience of working with GP surgeries and federations, the functionality they need to meet their objectives are not revolutionary. They enable amazing things but they’re easy to understand concepts that are simple to adopt.

For example, one organisation using EMIS Web as their clinical system can book appointments in another. That means that a surgery within a federation can book an appointment in their extended hours hub electronically, immediately, and without picking up the phone. An easy concept to understand, it’s straightforward to learn (and built on the same interface both surgeries use on a daily basis) and pretty simple to have activated from the clinical system supplier.

But what that enables is the kind of service patients dream about. You mean I can see a doctor outside of work hours when it’s more convenient for me? Sign me up!

“And that’s the amazing thing. The most powerful areas of your clinical system are probably the easiest to master.”

Kieron Heath

Sure, there’s always going to be a learning curve, you’re going to feel slower and less confident — but remember learning to drive or having a new job? Mastery comes through practice.

The day job problem

The biggest barrier to mastering your clinical system is the fact that the day job gets in the way. There are patients to see, finances to complete and that CQC inspection to prepare for. Oh and QOF, flu season, there’s a nurse off sick and my cat just died.

When am I supposed to do all of this? Sadly no-one can magic more time. But it’s just as important to invest in time to consider new ways of working, and invest in training and business change process. Only by taking two steps backwards are you able to take ten forwards.

And remember, help is out there. You can talk to your CCG, your system supplier, and your colleagues.

Ask yourself how can you be more efficient, increase your effectiveness and reduce your costs, and meet the challenges of the future head-on — instead of after the fact.

And, most importantly, what can my clinical system do to help me today?


This article was written by Kieron Heath, head of account team – consultancy services – primary, community and commissioning at EMIS Health.

The original article can be read on